Monday, October 24, 2016

Too Spoopy: Scary Movie (1991)

Scary Movie (1991)
Rating: *1/2
Starring:John Hawkes, Suzanne Aldrich, Ev Lunning

Before the term becomes notoriously associated with a certain horror spoof franchise that I personally believe should have stopped as a trilogy, there was another slasher film satire called "Scary Movie" back at the early 90s, one that poked fun at the subgenre's conventions without the need of completely parodying it, though I'm not sure if that's any better.

Our masked slasher...or is it?
It all takes place in one Halloween night, the same night a mental patient was being transported to another clinic, only for his ride to crash and set him loose. News of this escape soon reach the authorities of a nearby town, as well as finding its way to the town's annual Halloween fair and into the ears of one Warren. 

Now, the thing about Warren is that (pardon my French) he's the biggest pussy around, so much so that it borderlines dementia and it seems everyone (and I mean everyone) loves to pick on him because of this. So when Warren tries to warn everybody about the escaped nutcase, it comes to no surprise that nobody believes him until, that is, something happens inside the fair's haunted funhouse and Warren finds himself trapped inside it, accompanied by someone masked and carrying a deadly scythe. Could it be the looney from the crashed looney bin? Or perhaps something much worse?

From my seating, Scary Movie (1991) can be best described as a potboiling teaser of sorts, playing with a number of imagery normally associated with slasher horror such as obscured figures picking up dropped rubber masks (and presumably putting it on), people reacting to mysterious noises before cutting away to another scene (a practice used in slashers to imply a death or a red herring), and even glimpses of what could be bodies being dragged inside houses. It is these familiar set-ups that most likely made a lot of slasher fans comfortably expect bonafide dead teenager mayhem from this movie, but with the kind of twists and direction made, these might as well be the very same tropes that puts off half of (if not most) viewers by the end of the film. 

Without spoiling much, Scary Movie (1991) decided to play a lot of curve balls in regards to these cliches, blurring the line of what's legit and not. We see bodies and masked figures, but not all of it is what it seems until the time our lead finally gets out of the haunt house and gets confronted by the police, when we were finally given a clear explanation of what happened in the entire night. Can't say I dislike the conclusion as I already seen other slasher flicks do something similar to it, but I cannot deny that I felt cheated and underwhelmed because of it.

Perhaps the issues I have with this film is that it's not really all that funny despite the dark comedy approach and it's dangerously close to being boring; we got some running gags and quirky scenarios, but the mean-spirited tone and lack of likable personalities made it hard to be invested in the story and/or root for any of the characters, thus I usually find myself waiting for the next possibly legit horror scene to pop up and hope it will be satisfying. (And more often than not, they are not.) Bloodletting is unsurprisingly minimal with the kind of direction the plot headed to, but I will say that they almost got it right with the tension, mainly at the last act that sort of resembles the funhouse scenes of Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse. This build up for intensity could have been the movie's saving grace if only the characterization of our supposed hero wasn't such a tedious chore to watch as he literally wuss out at the very slightest instance of something "horrible" happening and the few scenes he decided to brave up and defend someone are rewarded with laughter, psychosis, and more insults. If the movie is slowly breaking down our protagonist for the sake of the movie's twist, then the least they could so is actually make the descent thrilling to compensate for the horror half of the movie or, should they really want to stick with the comedy, actually find some material that's worth laughing at or at least make the cast slightly less annoying.

Now that I am older, I will say that the Wayan brother's first Scary Movie is a dumb, vulgar and cheap parody that tries to be the Airplane! of teen slasher flicks of its time, but at least it has the energy and guts to pull some punches. Scary Movie (1991) has barely the energy, barely made any punches, but at least it tries to have a solid story to follow as everything that happens in the movie has a reason for it, so I guess the real problem is the execution of its concept. With this, Scary Movie (1991) is either a misunderstood hidden gem or an underwhelming timewaster depending on how well you can take the joke and/or how far you can stay away from your slasher comfort zone. It personally did nothing for my end but should you wish to experience grueling 90 minutes of some wimp freaking out just cause he saw a masked guy during Halloween, then what the hell is wrong with you feel free to indulge in this.

1 male mangled in car crash
1 male shot with a shotgun
Total: 2

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