SCARY MOVIE 4 (2006)

Editor’s Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on April 13, 2006, and we’re proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.


Scary Movie 4 is the kind of movie that defies much in the way of in-depth analysis; you either laugh at its rapid-fire assault of horror and other pop-culture spoofery, or you don’t. And I laughed—about as much as I did at the previous entry in this series, and certainly more than at either of the first two films. So, in lieu of an introspective critique of the sociopolitical undertones of people-getting-smashed-in-the-face-and-groin jokes, here are some random thoughts the movie engendered:

  • It may seem odd that a movie which consists of a string of sketch setpieces has a “Story by” attribution (to Craig Mazin, who also scripted with Jim Abrahams and director Jerry Zucker). But really, credit should be given for weaving the plots of War of the Worlds, Saw and The Grudge (with a side trip to The Village) into a single narrative that makes a certain amount of sense (on the film’s anarchic terms, anyway).
  • Two of the people I saw Scary Movie 4 with had seen few or none of the films being parodied, but found it funny anyway. That’s ’cause Zucker and co. are clever and smart enough not to settle for the simple humor-of-recognition that many similar comedies indulge in. Rather, they build well-timed slapstick and wordplay into the movie-specific situations, thus ensuring its accessibility and a longer shelf life. You don’t have to have seen The Grudge to find it amusing when this film’s ghost boy starts out insect-creeping down a stairway and winds up falling down it.
  • Having mentioned in my review of The Village that “Those We Don’t Speak Of” are the only things anyone in the movie seems to talk about, I especially appreciated the fact that Scary Movie 4 has a scene parodying this point.
  • When heroine Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris, game and adorable as always) and that spectral kid converse in “Japanese” that consists of phrases like “Teriyaki hibachi sushi” while the subtitles read “You must mistake me for someone who gives a shit,” is the fact that I cracked up a reflection of the filmmakers’ deft timing or my own immaturity? (Note: I was guffawing too much during the scene to take notes, so both those lines may be paraphrases.)
  • Dr. Phil can’t act, not even playing himself in the opening Saw takeoff with Shaquille O’Neal. But at least he proves that he’s willing to make fun of his own image, and can take bonks on the head with the best of ’em.
  • It’s nice to see Zucker and co. demonstrate that just because the laughs are often cheap, the movie itself need not appear that way. With its sharp, colorful visuals and solid FX work, Scary Movie 4 has a spiffy look missing in the likes of competitors like Date Movie, which looks like it cost less than the price of a ticket to see it.
  • Is there a limit to the number of rappers who can make cameo appearances in a single movie? Scary Movie 4 features brief turns by Chingy, Fabolous, Lil’ Jon, Young BloodZ, D-Ray and no doubt others. In addition, the final credits run for so long that it feels like they made up a bunch of fake names for them, just so enough hiphop songs could be played during the end titles to make a soundtrack CD.
  • In a scene clearly homaging that classic of ’80s horror The Nude Bomb, the President played by Leslie Nielsen, and the rest of the diplomats in the “un” (er, UN), lose all their clothes. Apparently, Nielsen’s full-backal nakedness was actually performed by a body double. I didn’t spot a credit in the final scroll for the person or persons who cast that stand-in, but whoever it was, they deserved placement right up front with the cinematographer and editor.

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