Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fright Flashback: Parodies

Welcome to Popcorn Culture's newest feature, Fright Flashback! I'm trying to really get going on this whole "blogging" thing by watching at least one new 2014 movie per week for the rest of summer. Alongside this, every week I will be reviewing an old horror movie that shares a theme or genre with the week's big release, a sort of spiritual predecessor. Yes, I'm reworking an idea from Tim Brayton over at Antagony and Ecstasy, so don't say I don't cite my sources.

This week's new release is the Amy Poehler/Paul Rudd romantic comedy parody They Came Together. It's certainly not a huge wide release, but there's no way in hell I'm going to see Transformers: Age of Extinction of my own volition. As the first entry in this new feature, I will be reviewing a horror parody - Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th, because there's even less way in hell I'm subjecting myself to Scary Movie again.

Year: 2000
Director: John Blanchard
Cast: Harley Cross, Simon Rex, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen
Run Time: 1 hour 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

I've made a huge mistake. Anybody who willingly picks up a copy (or, in my case, loads on YouTube) of a movie with a title like this knows what they're in for. After being inundated with film after film of joyless "parody" the likes of Scary Movies 1-5, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Date Movie, Vampires SuckDisaster Movie, Ad Nauseum Movie, as well as A Haunted House and its sequel, it's not difficult to ascertain the quality of this film and its humor.

These kinds of dirt cheap pop culture-laden "comedies" pop up on Netflix and RedBox a couple times a year to cash in on whatever the latest craze at the time happens to be. Unfortunately, as long as we keep giving them money, they will continue to thrive, multiplying and choking out other, better comedies like a kudzu vine.

There are only two of this entire mass of films worth noting at all in any capacity, however negligible. Sure, a film like Scary Movie has the historical value of being more or less the first of its kind (crappy pop knockoffs, not parodies) and the beginning of a long and unhappy franchise, but that doesn't mean it's valuable or deserving of note. In fact, it's quite emphatically not, an almost shockingly useless movie that would be reprehensibly offensive if it had any real personal influence over viewers aside from sucking in their money like a collapsing star.

The best of these, in my humble opinion, is 2001's Not Another Teen Movie, which had moments of genuine satire spliced in among the (sometimes literally) explosive amounts of scatological humor. The second best is the one we are here for today. Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th was produced around the same time as Scary Movie and as such is free of its mostly toxic influence. This doesn't mean the two films aren't similar in several very important ways, but the comedy here is much less mean-spirited and tends to fall on the "Oh, Grandpa" side of bad joking rather than the "I'm seriously considering scratching out my eardrums" bad humor of the Scary Movie franchise.

(I understand that there were and continue to be many fans of the Scary Movie franchise, to whom I impart no judgement. There is a way to enjoy just about anything, I just do not possess that capability with this particular set of films.)

There is, however, an easy way to enjoy this film.

SIYKWIDLF13 (holy crap, this is gonna be a rough ride) tells the story of Dawson (Harley Cross), a new student at Bulimia Falls High School. He quickly makes friends with a ragtag band comprised of Slab (Simon Rex, who got his start - and middle and end - in the gay porn industry), a dumb jock; Barbara (Julie Benz, who also played Darla in Buffy and Angel), the Sarah Michelle Gellar type popular girl; Boner (Danny Strong, also of Buffy and - holy crap this is the guy who wrote The Butler and is working on the screenplay for Mockingjay how did he get here), the sexless nerd; and Martina (Majandra Delfino, who continues her career in terrible comedy to this day, having appeared in the quickly aborted Van Der Beek sitcom Friends With Better Lives), who is about as clear an analogue to Clea DuVall's The Faculty character Stokes as a person can be without actively being in that movie.

A mask-wearing killer begins to strike down local teens (well, he tries, but dagnabbit if they always seem to die accidentally before he can get to them) and a hawkish reporter (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) descends on the scene looking for the inside scoop. Obviously, much like Scary Movie, this film makes the incredibly strange decision to parodize Scream, which was already the sharpest horror satire of the 90's. Luckily the plot is hung on a Scream-like structure, but the jokes are all aimed at the more general 90's horror scene and especially the oeuvre of one Kevin Williamson.

They were more thorough in satirizing his entire career than he was in creating it.

Let's stay on that for a second, because that's where this film rises above all its brethren. While there are plenty of pop culture references in this film, they are much less odious than the "cram whatever movie is out right now haphazardly into a gag" mentality of those other films thanks to being unified under the umbrella of the remarkably prodigious Williamson. The best jokes arise naturally from this well of content (including, by the year 2000, Halloween H20, Scream, Scream 2, The Faculty, and I Know What You Did Last Summer) as well as the general slate of Scream knockoffs that dominated  the horror of the decade like a militaristic tyrant bent on demanding the sacrifice of scantily-clad starlets.

Aside from this, SIYKWIDLF13 has nothing exciting to offer. The performances are exactly what you'd expect from the direct-to-video crowd, although the level to which the actors aren't taking their roles seriously adds a little bit of texture and a sense of what I hesitantly call "fun." It rather feels like a movie I could have made with my friends in high school, had I gotten into the horror genre much earlier than I did. Which, incidentally, was only about three years ago. I work fast. Go hard or go home, as my grandmother always says.

So, yes. This film is not without its merits, although for obvious reasons these don't serve in any way to make it operate on a level that could quite be considered Good or Funny in any traditional sense. All I can say is that despite clumsily handled jokes about domestic abuse, homosexuality, and molestation, this film is much less tawdry and offensive than it could have been and for that it's worth the relatively high stature of second best.

When you check out the score, you'll see that's not exactly worth much, but hey. It's better than a swift kick in the groin.

TL;DR: Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th isn't good at all, but at least it's not Scary Movie.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 1218

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