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Scarier and Funnier, Too

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 6, 2001


    'The Closet' James Woods and Natasha Lyonne spoof "The Exorcist" in "Scary Movie 2." (Photo by Linda R. Chen/Dimension Films)
What's the scariest thing about "Scary Movie 2," the sequel to the Wayans brothers' hit parody of horror movies from last year?

The list of writers (seven) is longer than the list of co-stars (six). In addition to siblings Shawn, Marlon and Craig Wayans – Craig? Where did he come from? – four other unrelated scribes are credited with contributing jokes to the comedic stew, which is actually better and funnier than the original.

Now wait a minute. We seem to recall that you hated the original.

Um, yeah, I did. But I hated this one less. To tell the truth, I didn't hate it at all. But that's mainly because director Keenen Ivory Wayans here manages to keep pretty much on target in ways he wasn't able to do in "SM1," which took too many potshots at things that have nothing to do with horror movies. In other words, he aims most of his satiric buckshot at scary movies, and not at pop culture in general.

Okay, the movie does contain an allusion or two to "Charlie's Angels," Nike commercials and filmmaker John Woo's trademark white doves, but by and large it sticks to making fun of demonic possession (in a prologue sendup of "The Exorcist" featuring James Woods, Andy Richter and Natasha Lyonne); ghosts (in a plot lifted wholesale from "The House on Haunted Hill" and "The Haunting"); and freakishly deformed handymen.

Speaking of which, Chris Elliott is hysterical as Hanson, the leering, claw-armed caretaker of the Gothic mansion into whose cobwebbed halls a group of college kids have been recruited for a scientific study of insomnia. Returning from the original, actors Shawn and Marlon Wayans, Anna Faris and Regina Hall, along with Chris Masterson of "Malcolm in the Middle" and the buxom, pillow-lipped Kathleen Robertson of "Beverly Hills, 90210," play the oversexed victims-in-waiting.

As the lip-smacking sleep researcher known only as The Professor, Tim Curry is delightfully lubricious, and as his wheelchair-bound and badly-combed-over assistant, Dwight, the ever-acerbic David Cross of "Mr. Show With Bob and David" fame is eminently watchable. Which brings me to the second thing I liked about this movie: the cast. No, not the main cast. They're fine, but not the point, really.

When a movie does as well as "SM1" did (making double its $19 million budget in the opening weekend alone), everybody and his brother wants to jump on board the sequel, and "SM2" is no exception. Okay, so Tori Spelling is no Meryl Streep, but I did get a kick out of watching the game starlet pleasure a blob of sexually aroused ectoplasm in her role as a grave-robbing gold digger.

That's right, "Scary Movie 2" is no more highbrow than its precursor. If anything, the gross-out factor has been ratcheted up a notch to keep pace with the competition. Still, it's a lot more tightly focused than the first outing, and for fans of the demented comedy of Elliott and Cross, or the thespian chops of Woods (a last-minute replacement for an ailing Marlon Brando), it's worth putting up with humor that's the filmic equivalent of a big, spit-soaked raspberry.

"Scary Movie 2" (R, 83 minutes)Contains obscenity, projectile vomiting and other bodily emissions, comic fixation on body parts, slapstick violence and sex with the living, the dead and the undead. Area theaters.


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