WFTB Score: 5/20
The plot: Scary Movie survivor Cindy Campbell is lured, under false pretences, into spending the night in a haunted house by her leering professor. She’s not alone, as best friend Brenda, would-be boyfriend Buddy, and fellow students Shorty, Ray, Alex and Theo also come along for the scary ride. The evil spirits possessing the house may be a kinky bunch, but it’s a close thing as to who should be most afraid of whom.
Scary Movie was not a film to suit everyone’s tastes, but it did have the courage of the Wayans’ Brothers convictions and wore its filthiness loud and proud on its sleeve. The reward? The revivification of the spoof movie after years of torpor, and great box office to boot. This made a sequel inevitable, but this time the writers – all seven of them – forego the Scream series to make fun of The Exorcist, The Haunting and more.
The Exorcist is spoofed in the pretty much self-contained opening sequence, featuring James Woods in the Max von Sydow role as the priest who returns fire (plus vomit) to Natasha Lyonne’s possessed girl. One year later, creepy Professor Oldman (Tim Curry) and his wheelchair-bound assistant Dwight (David Cross) seek to prove the existence of life after death; to this end, they trick a gaggle of unwitting, unruly students into staying in the camera-filled Hell House, most of whom lived – or failed to live – through the events of Scary Movie: perky student Cindy (Anna Faris), her friend Brenda (Regina Hall), Brenda’s pothead brother Shorty (Marlon Wayans) and her sometime straight, sometime boyfriend Ray (Shawn Wayans).
There’s also Alex (Tori Spelling), voluptuous student Theo (Kathleen Robertson) and Buddy (Chris Masterson), who fancies Cindy but struggles to strike the right balance of friendship – you really shouldn’t wedgie a girl, after all. Cindy also finds herself the specific target of the house’s malign spirit, Hugh Kane, as she bears an uncanny resemblance to the dead man’s mistress. Each of the students are tormented in their own ways, but this being a Scary Movie they are not exactly defenceless. The one terrifying presence they all struggle to cope with is eccentric housekeeper Hanson (Chris Elliott), an unhinged servant with a bizarrely deformed hand.
Of all the things you might call Scary Movie 2, sophisticated would not be one of them. In keeping with its predecessor, there are no buffers at all on swearing or gags to do with sex and drugs; and while this isn‘t a bad thing in and of itself, when there‘s next to no variety in the material it does get very wearing. Exhibit A is the smack-talking parrot in Hell House’s vestibule: it disses everyone it meets, and their mama – quite funny for a few seconds, but by the end a royal pain in the ass. More annoyingly still, some of the better jokes are spoiled by poor execution. Cindy has a literal cat-fight with a moggy, the animal wielding a broken bottle; unfortunately, the puppet work for the cat is distractingly poor, and the same goes for a number of other visual gags (such as the weed’s ’revenge’ on Shorty or the unspeakable ’When Ray meets the Clown’ interlude).
You wouldn’t call the movie sensitive, either. In general, I applaud the Wayans brothers’ edgy style even if I don‘t always laugh at it, but they can be accused of turning those with disabilities into grotesques (and I‘ve not even seen Little Man). Elliott’s Hanson is funny, even if his performance is allowed to freewheel too much, but the fact that his hand is considered disgusting is decidedly un-PC; worse, he and Dwight constantly trade juvenile insults when more smack talk is the last thing the film needs.
Even more unforgivable, you might argue, is the film’s decision to put Tim Curry in a spooky house with a disturbing, lank-haired manservant, and yet make no reference whatsoever to the Rocky Horror [Picture] Show. If this was a genuine oversight, then it’s a shame; if the idea was mooted but Curry refused to have anything to do with it, then they should have fired him and got someone else in, since Curry – fruity-voiced, a little pervy and more than a little porky – brings little else of interest to the role.
Lastly, you wouldn’t call Scary Movie 2 coherent. For a start, I couldn’t tell if the house used for the Exorcist bit was meant to be the same as Hell House; then, when the students arrive, their individual adventures singularly lack a continuous style or purpose. The movie is clearly a product of a large number of writers, none of whom spent much time looking after the plot; and while plot has never been the chief concern of parody films, this one goes in so many different directions at once that it would take considerable genius to tie them all together in a cogent climax. As it is, Scary Movie 2 cops out in favour of witless spoofs of Mission:Impossible and Charlie’s Angels.
Elsewhere, I may have described Scary Movie 2 as a dreadful film, and it is vulgar, childish and, on the whole, shoddily-made. However, it does contain the occasional sly dig (the missing Florida ballots turn up) or moment of inspired silliness – I particularly like the gag featuring Cindy’s car stereo. Scary Movie 2’s scattershot – or more accurately, splattershot (sorry) – approach doesn’t make for a good film, but it stacks up okay next to 3 and is infinitely preferable to the sorry excuse that would be 4.