New films try to revive horror parodies

Posted April 29, 2013


For more than a decade, the Wayans brothers — Keenan Ivory, Shawn and Marlon — dedicated their time to parodying horror films in their popular franchise, “Scary Movie.” The films have collectively grossed more than $818 million worldwide. Although none of the movies ever received rave reviews from critics, the franchise paved the way for other parodies of horror films.

Parodies, in general, satirize other genres or films for their shortcomings. Especially in horror films, the plots and characters can be unrealistic and absurd.

This is one of the main reasons why the “Scary Movie” franchise is so successful. The audiences that tend to watch these horror movie spoofs have already seen the films that are mocked in the parody; otherwise, the jokes wouldn’t make sense to them.

However, horror isn’t the only genre that is spoofed. Every genre has been mocked by parodies. Western movies take a hit in “Blazing Saddles;” “Mars Attacks!” parodies science fiction films; “Plump Fiction” pokes fun at several movies from the ‘90s including “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs;” romantic comedies, specifically those aimed at teens, were parodied in “Not Another Teen Movie;” and even Russian literature was mocked in director Woody Allen’s “Love and Death.”

These films tend to attract a positive reaction from audiences most of the time. For instance, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” – a horror comedy from 1978 – received poor reviews from critics; however, it garnered a cult following. One of the first horror comedies, “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948), also received positive reviews from fans; the National Film Registry has even preserved it. Earlier parodies tend to be more respected by critics than current ones. Today’s parodies focus on low-brow humor, trying to get laughs with bathroom humor and sexual jokes.

Though it has been seven years since the last installment, the “Scary Movie” franchise recently added “Scary Movie 5” to the collection. And it seems like with the return of the series comes the return of horror parodies in general. So far, audiences have already seen two horror film parodies in 2013: “Scary Movie 5” and “A Haunted House.” The latter is ironically produced, written and starred in by Marlon Wayans, who is no longer involved in the established franchise due to creative differences.

However, the genre’s comeback isn’t good news. If only the popular series had put an end to its crass parodies in 2006. Saying that “Scary Movie 5” falls short is an understatement. It’s not like audiences expect to watch a movie with a smart, well-written script when they plan on checking out one of these parodies, but “Scary Movie 5” is an insult. The film lacks a plot, prides itself on crude humor, features lackluster acting, and is built on a dull script.

“Scary Movie 5” attempts to mock “Mama,” “Paranormal Activity,” “Evil Dead,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “The Black Swan,” and even Lindsay Lohan’s and Charlie Sheen’s real-life personas; as expected, every shot taken comes up empty. The script tries to push the limits to get a laugh, but tries to reach too far. Moreover, it lacks a continuous plot; it feels more like several sketches forced together to make an 85-minute movie.

In addition to Sheen’s and Lohan’s cameos, several other well-known celebrities make appearances in the film, including Mac Miller, Snoop Lion, Usher and Mike Tyson. “High School Musical” star Ashley Tisdale and Simon Rex, who has appeared in the past two installments, star as the film’s main characters.

Tisdale and Rex play Jody and Dan Sanders who move into a new home after adopting three children. After experiencing some paranormal activity, the couple decides to record the events with a video camera. The rest of the film is home footage of a paranormal creature haunting them while trying to take their children. The events are narrated by a Morgan Freeman-like voice.

The franchise’s competition, “A Haunted House,” follows the same formula. It focuses on Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (“Half & Half’s” Essence Atkins) moving in together. Malcolm decides to document the couple’s move, which ends up leading to some paranormal activity. The film is comprised of home footage and features cameos by Nick Swardson, Dave Sheridan and Cedric The Entertainer.

Although the humor is just as aggressive and in-your-face as “Scary Movie 5’s,” it is definitely more tolerable. The acting is considerably better, especially Atkins’ and Wayans’ performances.

Moreover, the team behind “A Haunted House” made the right decision in focusing on just one horror film, “Paranormal Activity,” to parody. “Scary Movie 5,” on the other hand, tried to tackle too many films and celebrities; it made the jokes seem forced.

Most of the jokes in each film are repetitive and ineffective, like the scenes in “Scary Movie 5” trying to prove Tisdale is a bad mother (not only does she burn the baby’s head, but she smacks him against a door frame). And some form of bathroom humor is included in every scene in each movie, especially references to farting.

Neither film is memorable, but what horror parody is? It’s unreasonable for audiences to expect anything different. Both “A Haunted House” and “Scary Movie 5” follow the same formula of past parodies: poor acting, crass humor and a scattered plot. In that sense, they don’t disappoint.

  • Title: “A Haunted House”
  • Release date and distributor: Jan. 11, 2013; Wayans Bros. Entertainment
  • DVD release date: April 23, 2013
  • Leading actors, actresses: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Cedric The Entertainer, Nick Swardson, David Koechner, Dave Sheridan
  • Director: Michael Tiddes
  • Producers: Marlon Wayans, Michael Tiddes, Rick Alvarez
  • Writers: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez
  • Run time: 86 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • Personal rating: 2/5 stars
  • Title: “Scary Movie 5”
  • Release date and distributor: April 12, 2013; Dimension Films, The Weinstein Company
  • Leading actors, actresses: Ashley Tisdale, Simon Rex, Heather Locklear, Jerry O’Connell, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Molly Shannon
  • Director: Malcolm D. Lee
  • Producers: David Zucker, Phil Domfeld
  • Writers: Pat Proft, David Zucker
  • Run time: 85 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • Personal rating: 1.5/5 stars