Dir: Keenan Ivory Wayans. US. 2001. 88 mins.
It's taken the Wayans brothers just twelve months to follow up on the astounding success of their slasher spoof Scary Movie (which last summer grossed $157m in the US and $103m internationally) with a sequel that rips into the supernatural thriller genre with equally gross abandon. Perhaps because of the tight schedule, and the fact that the satirical targets are not as easy this time round, Scary Movie 2 doesn't hit as many comic bullseyes as its predecessor.
However, it does manage to reproduce the original's gleefully tasteless comic spirit and it should be capable of an impressive, if not quite as impressive, box office run (a one-day take of $8.75m, just $250,000 behind the number one film Cats & Dogs, shows that there is still appetite for the films.) The only commercial doubt concerns the availability, in the US at least, of the younger teen audience that helped make the original film a smash. Distributor Dimension Films drew flak from Washington for marketing the R-rated Scary Movie to under-18s. As a result, the Miramax-owned label may have been treading more carefully in promoting this similarly-rated sequel.
The Wayans - writer-performers Marlon and Shawn and director Keenan Ivory - hit the ground running with a pre-credit spoof of The Exorcist. The sequence doesn't appear to bear any relation to the rest of the story but it effectively, and pretty funnily, sets the scatological tone.
Taking a role that was to have been filled by Marlon Brando, James Woods plays horny, constipated (but not for long) priest Father McFeely, whose efforts at exorcism soon degenerate into a projectile vomiting match. The story proper finds several of the high-school friends from the first movie re-united at college: there's naïve Cindy (Faris), stoner Shorty (Marlon Wayans), closet gay Ray (Shawn Wayans) and worldly Brenda (Hall). Together with new classmates including Buddy (Masterson, from TV's Malcolm in the Middle), Alex (Spelling) and Theo (Robertson, from Beverly Hills 90210), the friends are recruited by a randy professor (Curry) for a weekend sleep experiment at a creepy country house.
The ensuing action pokes fun at old and new big-screen ghost stories (Poltergeist, The House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting, What Lies Beneath), other recent box offices successes (Charlie's Angels, Mission: Impossible 2, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and, most topically, Hannibal), politics, TV ads, and the latest round of small-screen game and reality shows.
Enough of the spoofs work to maintain the film's comic momentum, but it's clear that the supernatural genre isn't nearly as ripe for satire as the slasher genre was last year when the Wayans unleashed the original film. And borrowing much of the story from two films that achieved only moderate box office success - 1999's The Haunting and The House on Haunted Hill - seems like a commercially risky move. The film's sense of humour is certainly gross and un-PC, with plenty of bodily fluids and a sideline in disablement gags, but the tone is never mean-spirited and the performers have the energy to get laughs from even the skimpier gags. Among the returning actors, Faris and Marlon Wayans are particularly strong. Among the new cast members, Woods handles dicey material with a veteran's comic touch (imagining Brando in the part is a real mind-boggler) and Elliott (a TV stalwart who also appeared in There's Something About Mary) is funny as the haunted house's disgustingly crusty caretaker.
Prod cos: Dimension Films, Wayans Bros Entertainment
Dist: (US): Dimension Films.
Int'l sales: Miramax International.
Prod: Eric L Gold.
Exec prods: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Brad Weston, Peter Schwerin.
Scr: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Alyson Fouse, Greg Grabianski, Dave Polsky, Michael Anthony Snowden, Craig Wayans.
Cinematography: Steven Bernstein.
Prod des: Cynthia Charette.
Eds: Peter Teschner, Richard Pearson.
Music supervisor: Randy Spenlove.
Main cast: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Chris Masterson, Kathleen Robertson, James Woods, Tim Curry, Tori Spelling, Chris Elliott