SCARY MOVIE

R

-By Eric Monder


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In their first joint effort since the underrated and little-seen 'hood movie spoof, Don't Be A Menace to South Central While Drinkin' Your Juice in The Hood, co-stars/co-writers Marlon and Shawn Wayans (with brother Keenen in the director's chair) make pop-culture mincemeat out of all those slasher pics of the last few years-adding an African-American perspective to films that usually star Caucasian teenagers.

In the plot (patterned after Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer) a high-school student (Carmen Electra) is murdered, leaving her group of friends thinking they are next on the killer's list. These somewhat dimwitted students fear a mysterious assassin (in trick-or-treat garb) is seeking revenge for the accidental hit-and-run murder they committed a year earlier. Sure enough, one by one, the students are killed, making the survivors in the group suspicious of everyone, including one another. Meanwhile, the campus murders attract both the police and the news media. Finally, one of the friends, Cindy (Anna Faris), finds out the killer's identity and battles to prevent further deaths from occurring.

With this sort of vaudeville-sketch movie-similar to Airplane!-the jokes are hit-and-miss, but with the right audience, the experience can be fun. It's the sort of movie you want to like. Unlike Airplane! or Mel Brooks or Mad magazine or even the Wayans Brothers' old variety show, 'In Living Color,' Scary Movie is shamelessly raw with its sexual jokes and bathroom humor. In this day of the Farrelly Brothers, perhaps nothing is sacred, but it seems as if the Dumb & Dumber crew has finally been topped in the mainstream realm of cinematic bad taste.

Naturally, some of the jokes are offensive (while others just don't work the way they must have on paper), but many of them are genuinely hilarious and all of them are good-natured in spirit. The targets include the above-mentioned horror pictures along with The Blair Witch Project, The Sixth Sense, The Matrix, The Exorcist, plus Clueless, Titanic, Amistad, Shakespeare in Love, the Budweiser 'Wassup' campaign, Puff Daddy, the canceled 'Wayans Bros.' WB sitcom, and so much more.

Perhaps the best jokes concern the racial issues routinely ignored in real horror films. When a crew of black TV reporters note that a 'white girl' has been killed on campus, they beat a hasty retreat in their van to avoid becoming suspects. It's hard to spoof an already satiric film like Scream, but the opening sequence-practically a shot-for-shot parody (with Electra standing in for Scream's Drew Barrymore)-manages to send up everything from the sexist woman-in-jeopardy formula to Electra's own 'Baywatch' persona (this guest star is surprisingly game).

The others in the cast nail their parts, too, including Faris (in her debut) as the sugary but intrepid virgin-heroine, Cheri Oteri as a brazen reporter, Shawn Wayans as a not-so-closeted gay student, and Marlon Wayans as a pothead who finds unexpected rapport with the killer. (The only casting question is: Where is Kim Wayans, the family's engaging sister?)

Scary Movie could have been funnier in spots, but then, it helps to catch one's breath during such a riotous onslaught.

--Eric Monder


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