Films like Scary Movie V rank among the most relentlessly depressing experiences an audience can undergo. There are awful movies that nonetheless fill us with energy, that evoke the kind of twinkle-eyed glee that makes people love them despite their badness. We all have a soft spot in our hearts for, say, the z-grade fodder eviscerated by the MST 3K crew because their incompetence is so endearing. They become utterly lovable, though certainly not for the reasons the filmmakers intended.
Scary Movie V will never be loved by anyone ever, including the folks who made it. The concept was hardly sound back when the Wayans’ Brothers tried to send up Scream in the first film, and this fifth entry almost seems to revel in its lack of funny material. We’ve seen this wretched formula at work not just in the previous Scary Movie entries, but in the likes of Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans. It hinges on gratuitous use of pop culture references: not to comment on them or attempt to engage them as subjects of satire, but just point out that they exist. Look, Honey Boo Boo! Over there, Black Swan! Hey, why don’t we have Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan send up their own tarnished popular image, thus perpetuating their sad descent! The sheer relentless repetition of it becomes tiresome after two minutes. After seventy, you’re ready to gnaw your own limb off like a coyote just to give your mind something else to focus on.
Ostensibly, this is a horror movie parody, which would explain the silly story, riffed from Mama, about a couple (Simon Rex and Ashely Tisdale) who raise a pair of feral kids discovered inside a cabin in the woods. (Hey, wasn’t there a movie by that name last year? That’ll give us a great chance to wink at the camera while saying “cabin in the woods” a lot!) The resulting paranormal odyssey touches on such recent horror hits as Paranormal Activity, Insidious and the recent Evil Dead remake. Much has been made of that last one, out in theaters less than a week, and which Scary Movie V wears as some kind of proof of its relevance. That’s tough to do when you’re riffing on movies like Inception and Black Swan, which came out a good three years ago, or relying on such “up-to-date” humor tropes as an obese Hispanic maid or a little girl jamming a popsicle stick up her rectum. (Note to the producers: just because you’re politically incorrect doesn’t mean you’re funny.)
The stale, dated quality of the jokes is compounded by Scary Movie V’s complete inability to grasp the genre it’s trying to ridicule. Even with his worst efforts, Mel Brooks always loved his targets and knew them like the back of his hand. This effort smacks of cynical pop-culture skimming: marked neither by enthusiasm for its task nor an understanding of its targets. The jokes just sit there, spelled out in painfully obvious terms so the audience won’t lose anything and waiting for uproarious laughter that never arrives.
The vain search for humor grows exasperating, then infuriating, then ultimately depressing as we watch the movie go through its lackluster paces. It runs a short 70 minutes before the invariably padded credits roll, with not a titter to be heard the entire time. You could have run a blank screen for the same period and come away with a better experience. Scary Movie V doesn’t care one whit. It’s got our money, after all, which is all it really wanted in the first place.
It’s easy to blame director Malcolm Lee for this, or co-writer David Zucker, who created this kind of spoof with Airplane! and now seems dedicated to pissing on its memory. But in truth, they’re just responding to market forces: cynically and soullessly, but with a keen eye on their ultimate goal. The real culprit lies in the people who keep shelling out their money to see this. Every purchased ticket increases the chances of a Scary Movie 6, thus perpetrating the cycle. The audience is responsible for its own misery. At this point, I’m one of them, since Dimension failed to screen the film and left a Friday-morning screening as my only option. For my part in enabling this disaster, I profoundly apologize. I only pray this warning doesn’t lead you to repeat my mistake.