WFTB Score: 6/20
The plot: A group of suspiciously familiar-looking students with a secret to hide unwittingly become the targets of a manic masked killer in and around their dysfunctional high school. As a dopey mall cop and a vacuous TV reporter watch proceedings unfold, everyone involved gets a strange feeling that they’ve seen it all before.
‘You can’t stop progress!’ was Bill Heslop’s catchphrase in Muriel’s Wedding, and in many ways this is a good thing: for one, it means I’ve mentioned Muriel’s Wedding, which is a great film; for another, it means that with the march of time and technology the range of films that you can watch without moving a muscle – in near-cinema quality, these days – has expanded exponentially, making the speculative trip to the local video, er, place a thing of the past. As such, opportunities to watch films such as SIYKWIDLFT13, complete with trailers for appallingly cheap sci-fi movies starring Steve Baldwin, have diminished considerably. I may be mad, but I believe this is a shame.
Why all the pre-amble? Well, there’s not an awful lot to say about Shriek if…, other than the fact that it covers nearly identical ground to Scary Movie, and by extension Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, except with a considerably lower budget (the two spoofs came out within similar timescales, and I don’t think this film actively copies the Wayans brothers’ effort in any way).
So, instead of little-known actors such as Anna Faris playing the parts of the high school pupils with a guilty conscience and a masked slasher causing havoc in the background, you have complete unknowns: Harley Cross is Dawson (geddit?), the new guy; Julie Benz is Barbara, the airhead blonde; Simon Rex is Slab, the dumb jock; Danny Strong is Boner, desperate to lose his virginity (thereby roping in American Pie and several old Porky’s jokes at the same time); and Majandra Delfino is Martina, possible love interest for Dawson except for the hurdle that everyone assumes she’s a lesbian (largely on the basis of her unimaginative name).
The ‘stars’ of the show are reporter ex-Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills 90210 starlet Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as crack reporter Hagitha Utslay, and ex-Mr Roseanne Barr Tom Arnold as dopey mall cop Doughy. Although the pair have some involvement in the plot late on, especially Arnold, they form not so much a chorus to the youngsters’ goings on as a pause for breath while the scene changes behind them, complete with gags both related and completely irrelevant to the goings-on elsewhere in the film. Predictably, this lends the film a very sketchy air, and though the whole is tied together by Scream’s plot, these interludes and other fairly unconnected cameos from Coolio as The Administrator Formerly known as Principal (not a bad joke, actually) give a shortish film a fragmented feel.
More than anything, though, the film parody lives or dies on the quality of the material; and Shriek… does contain enough laughs to overcome many of its limitations, not least in the deviant school nurse (Shirley Jones) and one or two of its more inspired, if not exactly up-to-date, parody moments – particularly good is a Grease skit which fails to catch on (‘Of course it looks stupid if you don’t join in’, moans Slab, or words to that effect).
But just when all is going quite well, in particular treading a nice line in not lapsing into the tastelessness of the Wayans brothers’ output, the film gets horribly self-conscious, Martina declaring to the assembled house party that they are in a ‘parody situation’, awkwardly name-checking inspirations such as Airplane! and The Naked Gun! and explaining the formula behind spoof films as the gags take place on-screen. This is in itself a Scream reference, of course, but comedy is never improved by someone trying to explain why something is supposed to be funny. Not that, at this particular point in the film, the jokes are up to much anyway.
This lumpy section apart, Shriek if you know what I did Last Friday the 13th is a harmless enough way to spend an hour and a half. That the Killer’s identity is of no consequence either before or after he’s revealed doesn’t matter much, but it is perhaps a bit disappointing that the younger actors don’t make a greater impression. They are, like the movie as a whole, pretty forgettable, but it’s a lot more appealing than Steve Baldwin doing sci-fi – though perhaps I should reserve judgement until I actually get round to seeing Xchange.