I have to admit the trailer and TV spots for Dimension Films' "Scary
Movie" have left me laughing. The filmmakers have wisely cast aimed
their comedic sites far and wide to spoof not only the "Scream"
and "Last Summer" teen chillers, but also recent genre hits like
"The Sixth Sense", "The Blair Witch Project", and even
"The Matrix" (although let's hope the jokes are better sustained
here than those in Keenan Ivory Wayan's uneven parody of blaxploitation
films, "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka", which earned a passing grade
from yours truly for the goldfish in Antonio Fargas' platform
Of course, should "Scary Movie" prove to be another of those
throwaway duds that feature all of the best gags in the trailer (National
Lampoon's "Loaded Weapon", anyone?), it'll find itself in some
mighty dubious company. As long as horror films have ruled the box office,
there have been those eager to ride the wave by replacing the "yechs"
of the day with "yucks" (sorry....too many issues of "Famous Monsters"
as a kid <g>).
Of course, the Age Of Williamson is hardly the first time the "slasher"
genre has reared its controversial head....and neither are attempts
to take it down a peg. Here are some of the more notorious, and in many
cases best-forgotten, examples:
1981, a full year after Paramount unleashed its inaugural "Friday
The 13th" installment, and already, the genre was being primed for
parody. Maybe writer/director Mickey Rose (who'd help pen Woody
Allen's hilarious "What's Up Tiger Lily", "Take The Money
And Run", and "Bananas") should've waited until Jason had
killed a few more teenagers and offered up some more material for satire,
because the gags here were (and remain) pretty thin. An inept psycho
known as "The Breather" stalks the local teenage population (on that
rare date when Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Jamie Lee Curtis' birthday
all coincide), armed with paper clips, chalk board erasers, bookends...well,
you can see where this is going. The modern miracle of the fast-forward
button will help you get to the best jokes and have it back to the "return
bin" in time for a full refund (note: MovieForum.com does not endorse
such a practice, nor possesses any evidence that said practice will
The year 1998 showcased two asteroid films in one year, and 2000 brings
us rival "Mars" adventures, so is it any surprise that 1981 gave us
warring slasher spoofs? Directed by Greydon Clark of "Satan's
School For Girls" and "Without Warning" infamy, "Wacko"
is a cheap-looking, leaden comedy that pits detective Joe Don Baker
against 'the Lawnmower Killer". Notable only for one of the earliest
appearances of Andrew "Dice" Clay and Letterman-semi-regular
Jeff Altman, in addition to slumming vets George Kennedy,
Charles Napier, and Stella Stevens. Few moviebuffs rejoiced
a year later when Clark and Baker re-teamed for the "Porky's-in-a-video
arcade" comedy "Joysticks". Yes, it's worse.
A year later, in 1982, Alfred Sole decided to spoof a genre
he'd help to inspire earlier with his indie classic "Alice Sweet
Alice". Opening with a shishkabob murder at "It Had To Be U-niversity",
"Pandemonium" shifts to present day when ambitious Bambi reopens
the school as a cheerleader training camp. When the murders resume,
Sgt. Reginald Cooper of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Tommy
Smothers!), aided by his trusty talking horse, shows up to investigate,
and of course, everyone is a suspect. As an added bonus, Cooper sings
"Indian Love Call". This superior spoof is notable for early appearances
by several comedians who would later go on to nab the spotlight in wildly
varied careers. Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens (as Coopers' sidekick),
the late Phil "Saturday Night Live" Hartman, Carol Kane
(as a telekinetic teen ala "Carrie"), and Judge "Beverly Hills
Cop" Reinhold all put in memorable turns, in addition to veterans
Tab Hunter, Eve Arden (as a prison warden), Donald
O'Connor (!), and Eileen Brennan. For trivia buffs only:
the original title was "Thursday the 12th", but changed when
the producers of "Saturday The 14th", a haunted house comedy
starring Richard Benjamin, complained. Believe it or not, I found
a copy of the out-of-print "Pandemonium" at my local neighborhood
video store, where it's probably sat on the bottom of the "comedy" shelf
since the early 1980s. Skip "Runaway Bride" to probe the lower
depths and you too might come up lucky.
"National Lampoon's Class Reunion":
Same year, same subject, weaker jokes, despite the fact that it was
written by THAT John Hughes, then one of the finest National
Lampoon staff writers. This one features familiar faces Gerrit Graham
("Phantom Of The Paradise") and Stephen Furst ("Animal
House") as ill-fated graduates of Lizzie Borden High, who reunite
with their classmates of 1972 on the very night that Walter Baylor escapes
from the local asylum bent--and I mean BENT--on revenge. Best remembered
for a cameo by Michael Lerner as the resident psychologist/know-it-all,
and a performance of "My Ding-a-ling" by Chuck Berry. Otherwise,
best forgotten. I doubt you'll find this title on many resumes.
"Return to Horror High"
(1987) Yes, you asked the right question: "You mean, they were still
MAKING slasher-films in 1987?". Well, no...not really, so you can imagine
how resonant the jokes are here. An early attempt to mine the same serious/comedic
horror terrain that "Scream" would do so much better years later,
"Return to Horror High" is a light-hearted "whodunit" told in
flashbacks, set on a location shoot for a low-budget horror potboiler
inspired by a series of real-life local murders. Look out for TV vets
Maureen McCormack of the original "Brady Bunch", Phil McKeon
from "Alice", Alex Rocco (too many to mention), Vince Edwards
from "Ben Casey", and none other than George Clooney, later
of "The Facts Of Life" and some doctor program. McKeon and Clooney would
later re-team for "Red Surf". Writer/director Bill Froehlich
would never make another comedy. Now, you'll know why.
"Unmasked Part 25"
(1988) See above. Essentially a one-joke idea: what if Jason was a
wimp full of self-doubt and fell in love. Wait a minute...wasn't Jason
a wimp full of self-doubt to begin with, expressed through the business
end of a hatchet, machete, spear gun, etc.? Surprisingly gory, this
one may satisfy the Fango crowd but leave those seeking a few good laughs
in the cold. Nothing here is as remotely funny as the climactic revelation
that diminutive senior Betsy Palmer was the killer in the original
"Friday The 13th", hauling the bodies of fully grown men into
trees and hiding under creaky bedsprings to stick an arrow through Kevin
Of course, I'm forgetting "April Fool's Day", "There's Nothing
Out There", "The Silence Of The Hams", even "Abbott And
Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff"-- if you REALLY want to
broaden the definition of "slasher spoof". "Scary Movie" certainly
has its job cut out for it (ouch!)--after all, how do you parody a film
already as ridiculous as "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer"?
Maybe remake it as a musical?...
- Robert L