Title: Scary Movie 5
Director(s): Malcolm D. Lee
Release Year: 2013
For the same reasons why The Three Stooges remake failed horribly, Scary Movie 5 displays why the Scary Movie formula can no longer work in today’s society of mumble-core, dry humor, and camp. Parodies can function like what we see in films such as Shaun of the Dead and Tucker & Dale Vs Evil, but the difference between those films and Scary Movie 5 is that one adds to the genre it parodies, while the latter merely pokes fun at it. If a cast of D-list celebrities, and actors who haven’t had a decent role in the longest time doesn’t put you off, the over-the-top slapstick humor, sex jokes, and lowest-common-denominator gags will try hard to put you off as well. With some interesting elements which feel like they could have amounted to something worthwhile, the final product ends up being a mess of references to other films, with no actual bearing to the rest of the movie.
Implementing a cross between Paranormal Activity and Mama, Scary Movie 5 follows Dan (Simon Rex, making his unwanted return) and Jody (Ashley Tisdale) after they adopt Charlie Sheen’s (Dan’s brother) 3 children, after Lindsay Lohan and him are killed by a spirit in Charlie’s house. The children have become feral and refer to an ominous spirit known only as Mama, when they are found and adopted later on. Dan and Jody are told that they can have the children, but they need to stay at Charlie’s old house, where they have cameras situated in every room so that they can monitor their ability as parents. So a lot of the film is shot as a found-footage movie, with the plot strictly following the exact same plot of Mama from this year. Presumably, the Mama storyline came during the reshoots that happened earlier this year, and are probably the most timely of references in the film, aside from the Evil Dead moment they have.
Timeliness is what these films generally rely heavily on, assuming most people have seen films like Sinister, Mama, and The Cabin in the Woods, but then there are the references to movies which don’t even fall under the horror genre, but nonetheless are made and tied into the main narrative. Dan’s job is a researcher at a laboratory which is working on an experimental drug that will give apes human-like abilities and increased intelligence. Unfortunately, progress isn’t being made so Dan is eventually fired from his job (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, anyone?). Then there’s Jody who, just like in Mama, does not want to be a mother, but because of her love for Dan is willing to try. However, she wants to follow in her mother’s (Heather Locklear) footsteps and become a ballerina, so she tries out for the production of Swan Lake that comes complete with Molly Shannon riffing on Winona Ryder’s character of Black Swan and J.P. Manous doing his best Vincent Cassel. The Black Swan storyline actually works well in being incorporated into the main plot, but the Rise of the Planet of the Apes reference pretty much is just there as a side plot.
No scene could be considered inconsequential though, because even a scene where Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion, whatever is your fancy) is detailing what he is going to do with the reward money he gets from finding the three missing children that are later adopted by Dan, it all comes back in the end. That is why I think Scary Movie 5 has elements of something worthwhile. Think of it like a Marvel and DC Comics crossover film, where one universe that is completely separate is somehow tied into the other. Scary Movie 5, as well as the previous ones, attempt to do this, but with a collage of pop culture references. To put a reference to The Cabin in the Woods in the same universe as scenarios from Evil Dead are occurring, or in a universe where Mama‘s plot is actually happening, is ridiculous but also the work of fan fiction. It has to go beyond references though, and needs to tie in to each other more, like the Evil Dead moments tie in with the Black Swan ones and subsequently the Mama storyline. That is what makes Scary Movie 5 interesting, at the very least.
The problem is that whenever the film seems like it is doing something smart, it then does a million things wrong within one scene. An example would be a minute long conversation between Snoop Dogg and another drug user, who argue over which cabin in the woods the literal cabin in the woods that is in front of them is like. Is it Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Is it Evil Dead? Does it even really matter? The answer is no, but those are the kind of jokes we expect from the Scary Movie franchise. I’ll admit, the humor got to me at some points, and there’s some really absurd jokes such as a ballerina being an actual stick figure except for her head, and a rave consisting entirely of vacuums, which holds no significance to the rest of the plot. Unfortunately, the film rarely ever gets past phallic jokes and other references to bodily parts/functions.
Scary Movie 5 is not the worst film I’ve seen this year, because at least there is a spark of creativity within a labyrinth of filth and vile. It would have been great if the film managed to be as humorous and creative as the first film, but it seems like no one is really invested in the franchise enough to make it successful. The movie never got to a point where I thought it was just throwing references out there for no reason, but when it wasn’t doing allusions to other films, it was copying Mama scene-for-scene. The cast is fairly abysmal as well, with the exceptions of Ashley Tisdale (who I thought was an average replacement to Anna Faris, but made me miss her presence) and Molly Shannon, who absolutely revels in her role. Other actors like Jerry O’Connell and Darrell Hammond are clearly just there for the paycheck and nothing else. Then there are also the pointless inclusions of Snoop Dogg and Mike Tyson which will probably confuse even fans of them. Really, what Scary Movie 5 amounts to is the spark of something fresh that just got too bogged down with trying to be funny and relevant. Maybe the next iteration (though I do think it is becoming apparent that the franchise needs to die) will focus more on doing something new, as opposed to being the contrived rehash of everything-pop-culture that it is today.