Scary Movie 5by Kavish Chetty / 31.07.2013
The effects of Scary Movie 5, most apposite considering its tone and subject, are both diuretic and laxative – it will compel the desire to lurch from the theatre to the bathroom, in aimless pursuit of mere escape. I, myself, hoped to find peaceful exile among the urinals and cold splashes of tap-water, but no sooner had my agitations reached a climax, the film ended. At 71 minutes until the credit-roll, SM 5 might rank among the shortest full-length feature-films ever, or at any rate, its abbreviated time signals its burnt-out ideas, their interiors far too scorched to drag this along any more than a simple hour. The Wayans brothers and their usual complement of semi-charming saps (including Anna Faris) are absent, and instead the film is glutted with celebrity cameos, each a kind of prestigious and self-reflexive intertext rigged up to distract from the plotless, sense-bereft goings-on of the main narrative. Incomplete list from memory: Charlie Sheen; Lindsay Lohan; Snoop Lion; Mike Tyson; Usher.
The Scary Movie “franchise” – because let’s be honest, its five-part seriality can’t be mistaken as anything other than a cultural edifice for revenue – presents the premier symptom of the age. It’s originally created with the purpose of parodying the eminently parody-able horror culture of cinema: improbable plot-twists, comic abominations, thinly-drafted characters of absurd motive. It begins as a critique, seemingly by way of irony, the method being to recreate the backdrop of its original materials, but then drive its original impulses for horror to such extremes as to reveal their inherent comic possibility. Along the way, however, this practice becomes an orthodoxy of its own, and now it’s quite imaginable that Scary Movie – and the legions of parodies triggered by its commercial genesis – are themselves parody-able orthodoxies to which some super-postmodern, cashless and talentless directorial power may command in something like Parody Movie, volumes I – VIII. SM 5 sates the twin desires of a public who are “addicted to references” in tumblr-style, but also want to participate in a “meta-gag” – the jokes in SM 5 are mostly not intelligible as humour on their own terms, but require a cultural capital, a knowledge of the vast idiocies performed under the sign of Hollywood, in order to be funny. It’s weird how a genre that starts off in the spirit of satiric critique ends up succumbing to exactly the rule-bound logic of its critical object. SM 5 auto-critiques itself into oblivion – within the horizons of a culture that can only filter comedy through the sexual and scatological.
So, to swoop from the high-rises of this critical vantage, into the bloody particulars of the film itself: SM 5 architects itself around a bouquet of underwhelming films from recent memory including Mama (foster parents in care of feral children with a spectral, demonic mother), Black Swan (uppity, aspirant danseuse at the thresholds of a split-personality disorder), Paranormal Activity (surveillance cameras in a house bedeviled by the supernatural), Planet of the Apes (simians develop higher cognitive potential and rebel against humanity) and then extends its arbitrary iconoclasms to Fifty Shades of Grey, Inception, Evil Dead and Cabin in the Woods. In its opening scene, Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan recreate a sexual pantomime – to the soundtrack of that nostalgic Leon Schuster comic trumpet piece – the point of which is to self-parody their mythologies as sex gods and/or perennially arrested drunk-drivers. It’s satiric aim is so low that when it misses, which it inevitably does, is splashes itself all over the piss-slashed gutters, which really sets the tone for a film which delights variously in images of primates flinging shit at mirrors, and soapy, Sapphic set-pieces (or, more simply, lesbians in a shower): the proximity of the fecal and the orgasmic, of disgust and arousal, of the anal and the genital; both cathartic pleasures strung together by a thin-strip of perineum.
Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical) and Simon Rex (general nobody) play the adoptive couple, inheriting a trio of young girls who were abandoned in the wild. They are given a suitably atmospheric mansion to live in, while they monitor the behaviour of the children, who claim to have survived under the invisible aegis of “Mama” – their monstrous guardian, who ends up signifying some rather laughable ideas about motherhood’s natural connection to its offspring (so deep is this love it extends beyond mortality etc. etc.). Along the way, Tisdale auditions for a ballet; there’s an encounter with a charlatan exorcist; some primates become super-intelligent and jailbreak their way into society… in short, an endless confection of already-done ideas, pulled out of the earth and re-jigged for comic purposes. There are, at a gracious reading, two or three decent gags here, but they’re stuck so deep in the mire of this film’s low-hanging sensibilities – just a genuine desire to say nothing new – as to be icy comfort. Performances are unremarkable, the music is forgettable, the plot is irrelevant, the comic timing would give Schuster a hard-on… Perhaps the only way to honour this film’s vulgar soul would be to walk out early and exercise the fugitive desire to shit in a urinal.