When Scary Movie hit screens in the summer of 2000, its tagline promised “No Mercy. No Shame. No Sequel.” Well, at least the first two were correct, especially the comment about the lack of shame.
However, we quickly learned that there would be a sequel to Scary Movie. Indeed, such a prospect became absolutely inevitable after the flick’s stellar opening weekend; the unheralded film made an amazing $42 million in its first few days, a number that more than doubled its miniscule $19 million budget. Eventually it would earn a solid $156 million, a figure strong enough to make it the 9th top-grossing movie of the year; if fit snugly between the $157 million of X-Men and the $155 million of What Lies Beneath.
Unfortunately for the careers of all those involved, Scary Movie 2 didn’t prove to be nearly as successful. It took in $71 million, and with a much higher budget of $45 million, 2 will struggle to break even. It’ll probably do so, but I think the rather tepid reception makes it less likely that we’ll find a Scary Movie 3.
Thank God for small miracles. The first flick was moronic and unimaginative, and the sequel does nothing to improve the situation. Much of the original’s cast returns for the new one. After a totally incongruous spoof of The Exorcist that features James Woods, we soon catch up with some of the old gang. Cindy (Anna Faris) is still the perky girl next door, and friend Brenda (Regina Hall) remains the excessively expressive ghetto fabulous sort. Ray (Shawn Wayans) stays “secretly” gay, and Shorty (Marlon Wayans) continues to indulge heavily in the demon weed. (Ray died in the first flick, but as we learn in the DVD’s extras, he came back to life because this was the sequel.)
As the kids head to college, we meet some new faces. Buddy (Chris Masterson) wants to hook up with Cindy, who wants to just be friends, while Alex (Tori Spelling) wants to hook up with anybody. Theo (Kathleen Robertson) doesn’t have a well-defined personality or connection, but she’s really hot, so she’s in the film.
The crew comes together under the auspices of a psychology course led by Professor Oldman (Tim Curry) and his assistant Dwight (David Cross). They’ve engineered a study to investigate paranormal activities, and they trick the students into participating under the auspices of a sleep study. They head to Hell House for the weekend, where all something will break loose.
And that’s where the majority of the film takes place. Not so loosely based on 1999’s The Haunting, the movie packs in additional parodies of flicks like Hollow Man, Charlie’s Angels, Hannibal and Poltergeist as well as that Nike ad in which some players create a beat with a basketball.
The structure virtually duplicates that of the first movie. That one worked around the framework of Scream but also featured many detours for spoofs of other projects. One big difference comes from the main parody. I thought Scream was a strange choice simply because it already mocked horror clichés; how do you parody a parody?
Nonetheless, at least Scream met one important criterion for a spoofable piece: it was a hit and was very famous. Indeed, Scream was unquestionably one of the most influential flicks of the Nineties.
The Haunting, on the other hand, was a near-total dud. It got terrible reviews and it stiffed at the box office. Were it not for the DVD’s stunning soundtrack - which keeps it alive for technogeeks like me - I think the film would already be totally forgotten.
As such, it’s a bad source for a parody, and the fact that much of the film also takes off of Hollow Man - another weak performer at the box office - means that 2 devotes much of its short running time to semi-obscure properties. That’s not a recipe for success.
In addition, the Charlie’s Angels scenes suffer from the same problem I found with the first movie’s emphasis on Scream. Charlie’s Angels embraced self-parody as it was, so it seemed odd to try to spoof that. It doesn’t work, as many of those scenes actually felt almost like outtakes from the original. Sure, some of them went over the top enough to be different, but too much was nearly literal.
A lot of the spoofs simply lasted far too long. The filmmakers grabbed something they liked and wouldn’t let go, so many gags continued well past the point of even theoretical usefulness. How an 82-minute film could feel so padded is a mystery to me.
As with the first movie, 2 mainly takes a bit from the source inspiration and makes it nasty somehow. On occasion, this means something already gross becomes more disgusting, a factor that seems most evident in the early Exorcist sequence. 2 retains the same overemphasis on potty jokes found in the first, however, and an awful lot of the flick revolves around some really nasty content.
You can probably tell that Scary Movie 2 didn’t do much for me, but I will admit I preferred it to the original. Perhaps because it operated off of more obscure sources, it seemed a little more creative than the first movie. No, I still never laughed, but I felt somewhat more amused this time.
Part of that stemmed from the actors. For some reason, Hall’s broad characterization of Brenda hit a more entertaining chord, and Spelling proved surprisingly deft as a comedienne; she never could act, but she can make fun of herself pretty well. It was mildly interesting to see some respectable actors like Woods and Curry get into such nasty material as well.
Nonetheless, Scary Movie 2 felt like a pretty lousy piece as a whole. Its positives were minor, while its negatives seemed large. I didn’t loathe it as much as I did its predecessor, but I sure didn’t like it either.
Scary Movie 2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The original Scary Movie offered a picture that seemed surprisingly problematic for a brand new flick. However, at least I could blame its small budget. The same option doesn’t exist for the $45 million 2, which generally looked decent, but bizarrely seemed less attractive than the first movie.
One oddity revolved around the aspect ratios. Scary Movie used 2.35:1, while 2 went with 1.85:1. I believe that it’s generally more expensive to film 2.35:1, so it seemed weird the cheaper flick used that ratio. I briefly thought that both movies tried to replicate the dimensions of their main sources. Scream was 2.35:1, but so was The Haunting, so that argument rapidly collapsed. If they’d based most of 2 on the 1.85:1 Hollow Man, I’d get somewhere, but otherwise, this change made little sense.
Even less logical was the slight decrease in picture quality. Again, 2 usually looked pretty decent, but a number of concerns occurred. Sharpness looked crisp and detailed for the most part but some scenes appeared somewhat soft and hazy. No images were tremendously fuzzy, but more than a few came across as less distinct than they should, especially during wide shots. I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, but some light edge enhancement occasionally crept into the image. In regard to print flaws, periodic examples of grit and speckles occurred, and I also saw some light grain. These issues weren’t severe, but they seemed much too prominent for a brand new flick.
Colors came across as moderately murky at times. At times, the tones seemed reasonably clear and vivid. However, a fair amount of the time they seemed somewhat blotchy, and skin tones could look a little pinkish. Black levels were acceptably deep and dark, and shadow detail seemed appropriately heavy but not excessively dense. In the end, much of Scary Movie 2 looked reasonably clear and accurate, but a recent film of its stature should present a stronger impression. As such, it earned a fairly mediocre “B-“.
The film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed similarly decent but unspectacular. The soundfield stayed mainly in the front channels. Music and effects spread nicely across the forward speakers and meshed together neatly, but the center dominated the affair. I found the mix to appear reasonably seamless and smooth. The surrounds contributed general reinforcement, most of which featured the film’s music. Some effects stemmed from the rears as well, but mainly they provided little more than the movie’s score.
Audio quality displayed some minor concerns. Dialogue appeared slightly edgy at times but usually was crisp and distinct with no issues related to intelligibility. Effects were clean and came across accurately without any distortion. The music sounded bright but often came across as somewhat thin and tinny. During some songs, bass response was quite good, and dynamics improved as the movie progressed, but too much of the track appeared constricted, and low-end seemed rather weak for the most part.
Really, the soundtracks of Scary Movie and 2 were very similar except for that last area. I found the first flick to offer some very good dynamic range, but while occasional sequences showed nice fidelity, the movie as a whole lacked much depth or warmth. That made the difference in my grade and knocked 2 down to a “B-“.
When Scary Movie hit DVD in December 2000, I was surprised that it lacked many substantial extras. After all, a huge success like that normally warrants a packed DVD. Examine the other nine movies in the box office top ten for 2000 and you’ll find that Scary had the fewest supplements of the bunch. Actually, I should amend that; it was the weakest of the ten in regard to traditional extras. It earned a “B” from me largely on the strength of some excellent DVD-ROM materials. While the standard DVD features were interesting, there weren’t many of them, so without the DVD-ROM stuff, my grade would have fallen well into “C” territory.
2 definitely expands on the content provided with the original, but it’s still not a great collection. Still, the material it includes seems uniformly quite good. Easily the most substantial area presents some Deleted and Alternate Scenes. While the first film’s DVD included about seven minutes of these, the sequel offers a whopping 43 minutes and 35 seconds of unused footage! Yikes - that’s more than half the length of the movie!
The DVD features 22 scenes, and these are divided into “deleted” or “alternate” sequences. The first 14 clips are deleted bits, while the final eight offer elongated versions of existing segments. Bizarrely, we actually get an extended version of a deleted scene; the film’s alternate ending pops up twice, and the second one lasts just a little longer. Each of the 22 clips runs between 35 seconds and five minutes, 40 seconds.
Surprisingly, some of the scenes are almost amusing. In particular, bits that involve Regina Hall and Tori Spelling could be moderate fun. As I noted in the body of my review, they offered some of the best parts of the movie, and it was good to see them expand their roles. Frankly, a lot of this stuff was better than work they included in the finished flick. Hey, the alternate ending also makes sense of the movie’s opening; it would have bookended the film.
One additional note about the deleted scenes: no, the Brando material doesn’t appear here. As many know, Marlon Brando was originally hired to play the role of exorcist Father McFeely. However, he bowed out due to illness. From what I’ve read, I can’t figure out if Brando never shot any film or if he did some incomplete work. A listing on IMDB states he never appeared before the camera, but some other Internet scuttlebutt relates that he did perform a little work. Allegedly the Wayans brothers even claimed these would appear as an Easter egg on the DVD. If that’s so, they’re hidden from me, as I couldn’t find them. I think the Wayans were joking, personally.
2 continues with a roster of featurettes. Though insubstantial in length, all of them are rather entertaining. First we find a standard Behind the Scenes Featurette. This piece lasts eight minutes and five seconds and includes the standard roster of shots from the set, movie clips, and soundbites from film personnel. We hear from director Keenan Ivory Wayans and the major actors. Though it seems promotional at heart, the featurette is still fun, largely due to the good behind the scenes images and the glib comments from movie staff, especially Chris Elliott and James Woods. It’s not terribly educational, but it’s fun nonetheless.
The Special Effects Tour With Lou Carlucci gives us a five minute and 45 second tour of the movie’s visual materials alongside its effects coordinator. Unlike most effects-intensive flicks, this one concentrates on practical pieces, so we learn about the fake bird poop, vomit, and other nasty things. This piece seems interesting and entertaining.
In a similar vein come both the 105-second Here Kitty Kitty and the 125-second Scary Effects, which concentrate on more traditional movie workings. The former shows some of the work done on the flick’s black cat puppet, while the latter gives us a look at different elements like fake glass, skeleton effects, and a revolving room. These appear surprisingly informative for their length, and they give us a nice look at the topics.
Following along the same lines, we get Behind the Makeup With Barry Koper. This four minute and 15 second featurette gives us the scoop on the appropriate issues, and it’s also quite useful. It turns out 2 has a very close connection to The Exorcist that we learn about here. Again, it’s awfully short, but it packs a lot of good material into its length.
A Still Gallery includes 97 production photos. These seem reasonably interesting, but the presentation’s a little weak. They’re framed in such a way that they’re rendered a little small. In addition, the Sneak Peeks department provides trailers for a slew of projects. We get previews for upcoming releases 40 Days and 40 Nights and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York - though the latter mentions a Christmas release that’s apparently been delayed until February 2001 - as well as ads for current DVDs Scary Movie, the Scream Trilogy, and Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. A mention of Dimension’s “Cutting Edge Films” also appears.
I don’t normal comment on DVD menus, but Scary Movie 2 merits special attention. Referred to as Word from the Perch, in these we hear varying humorous remarks from the film’s parrot. Actually, these use a totally different voice than the one heard in the film. Matthew Friedman did the lines in the movie, but some unknown Chris Rock wannabe voices them here. Anyway, the parrot offers unique rants based on the different areas of the disc, such as one in the “Set Up” menu where he mocks you for considering the French soundtrack. They’re not amazingly hilarious, but they’re funnier than the movie itself.
Speaking of our feathered friend, he’s involved in the three Easter Eggs available on the DVD. From the “Bonus Materials”, “Captions and Subtitles” and “Sneak Peeks” menus, you can access additional tirades from the parrot. I’m not sure they’re worth the effort, but they’re there nonetheless.
In addition to links for the official Dimension and Miramax websites, the DVD-ROM area provides an Online Trivia Game. The DVD for Scary Movie included a similar contest. I was never able to play it to completion because it always crashed on me at some point. The “Trivia Game” for 2 ran even worse. After a terribly long load time, the entire thing just sat there and never got started. One time it almost ran, but it soon crashed. After 10 attempts to get the game to work, I quit. Good luck if you try it; maybe you’ll achieve better results, but I couldn’t even begin the program.
The DVD-ROM area also includes Character Profiles for 16 of the roles. Note that these aren’t cast biographies; each one mentions only the name of the character and gives us a semi-interesting synopsis of the personality. The information provided is nothing special - it essentially regurgitates what we already know from the movie - but it’s still a fun little area. The listings are enhanced with links to lines from the movie and some photos, so it’s a nice addition.
Lastly, the Screenplay Viewer allows you to read the script as you watch the film. I found this interesting just because of all the ways the final product altered the original text. It also offers some behind the scenes photos that you can enlarge with a click.
While not as terrible as its predecessor, Scary Movie 2 still left a lot to be desired. Its performers offered some decent work at times, but the film itself was largely a compendium of uninspired toilet humor. The DVD provides surprisingly bland and drab picture and sound quality, while the supplements include some nice pieces. Fans of the original will probably get a kick out of Scary Movie 2, but others should skip it.