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Vivisecting cliches 

Scary Movie a racy parody of Scream

Scary Movie

Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans

Stars Jon Abraham, Carmen Electra

Rated R

Opens July 7

In the summer of 1975, Universal Pictures re-released the original classic versions of Dracula and Frankenstein as a "midnight movie" double feature. The venture was successful, with many theaters doing sellout business each weekend. However, although the big crowds were appropriately quiet -- even respectful -- through each viewing of Dracula, virtually every screening of Frankenstein erupted in pandemonium, with audiences snorting, jeering, spouting wisecracks and loudly ridiculing each successive scene. Why? Because of a filmmaker named Mel Brooks and his feature-length parody Young Frankenstein, released the year before. In the wake of Brooks' exquisitely knowing spoof, the concept of a reanimated body -- stitched together from corpses and bestowed with the deformed brain of a convicted killer -- was suddenly somehow funny.

"Abby Normal's brain! Abby Normal's brain!" shrieked chortling late-night cinemaniacs, exchanging high-fives and guffawing as they watched Dwight Frye tragically deliver the wrong specimen jar to Colin Clive.

There is a lesson in this. And may Great Cthulhu have mercy on anyone who tries to make another "serious" teen-oriented horror film in the wake of all the hilarious havoc that director Keenen Ivory Wayans wreaks in his sidesplitting new spoof, Scary Movie.

Applying the same insightful satiric touch he brought to his 1988 blaxploitation parody I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Wayans opens with a brilliant send-up of Scream's infamous first scene. Drew (Carmen Electra) talks on the phone with a menacing caller while her Jiffy Pop, abandoned on the stove, expands to the size of the Hindenburg. Fleeing, she stumbles onto a cache of weapons -- hand grenade, knife, pistol, banana -- and promptly selects the latter; and when the killer stabs her in the chest, he withdraws his knife to find it impaled on a bulging silicone implant.

Wayans mercilessly vivisects every cliché in the genre. He delights in showing us what "real" horror movies never do, such as how difficult it would actually be for a masked maniac to sprint for cover during a now-you-see-him-now-you-don't sequence, and how much grueling mop-and-bucket work would be necessary for a slasher to conceal a fresh killing. (In this case, shapely Shannon Elizabeth of American Pie gets sliced.)

Even the music score and the widescreen cinematography get in on the act; at one point an actress uncomfortably pushes away a lens which has zoomed in too close to her face. But for her, help is only a mouse-click away. Typing "white woman in trouble" into a police website instantly brings a phalanx of squad cars skidding into her front yard, with lights flashing and sirens screaming.

Other scenes cleverly ridicule some especially deserving targets, such as Budweiser's insufferable "Whasssup?!" commercial, The Matrix's headache-inducing "bullet cam" trick photography, and Heather Donahue's tediously over-familiar, gibbering close-up from The Blair Witch Project. Along the way, Wayans even takes stabs at Riverdance, Amistad and PETA. When Cindy (Anna Faris, in her feature debut) objects to a particular brand of makeup because "it's tested on animals," there's an immediate close-up of a chimp wearing lipstick.

Scary Movie's razor edge occasionally slips, however, when the film wanders too far off topic with pointless jokes about drugs, homosexuals and the mentally handicapped. It also exhibits a bizarre obsession with male genitalia, something rarely seen in American horror films but displayed here with eager passion at almost every opportunity. In one amazingly explicit scene, a gay character is killed -- in huge close-up -- by an erect phallus that punches through both his ears.

There's also what may well be the ultimate "cum shot," in which an actress is literally blasted up against a ceiling by a teenage boy's high-pressure ejaculate. That this made the final cut without earning the film an NC-17 rating is astounding. It's also yet another example of Wayan's smutty, devilish wit that this shot comes, almost literally, at Scary Movie's climax.

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