31 Days of Horror: Scary Movie – What happened to the parody movie?

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: (R-L) Marlon Wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Shawn Wayans attend the 10th Annual TV Land Awards at the Lexington Avenue Armory on April 14, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: (R-L) Marlon Wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Shawn Wayans attend the 10th Annual TV Land Awards at the Lexington Avenue Armory on April 14, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage) /

One way to measure a film’s influence is based on how future films in the same genre changed to follow its lead. In the case of Wes Craven’s 1996 Scream, it inspired many horror imitators and was the spark for the return of a comedic styling that had become old-fashioned, the spoof movie. The most significant being the 2000’s horror parody classic Scary Movie.

The spoof or parody has been around since the earliest phases of film history. Parodies date back to the comedic musings of Abbott and Costello with their 1945 film Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Decades later, the legendary Mel Brooks had an excess of parodies in the 1970s with films such as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. That same decade, British comedy troupe Monty Python put out the now classic spoofs Monty Python and The Holy Grail and Life of Brian.

In the 1980s and 90s, the Zucker brothers, Jerry and David, delivered comedy tentpoles such as Airplane, Top Secret! and The Naked Gun series that starred Leslie Nielsen. The horror genre, particularly, saw spoofs such as 1981’s Student Bodies, The Return of the Living Dead, and Repossessed.

By the mid-90s, the parody genre, much like horror, was at a low point. However, the meta-commentary exhibited by Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Scream gave an opportunity to bring back the spoof film.

Scary Movie
LOS ANGELES – APRIL 10: Actors (clockwise from left) Damon Wayans, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans and Damien Wayans pose at the after-party for “Malibu’s Most Wanted” at the Highlands on April 10, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) /

Keenen Ivory-Wayans wasn’t new to the parody film as his 1988 movie I’m Gonna Git You Sucka parodied the black exploitation movies of the 1970s. Numerous members of the Wayans family had their hand in spoofs.

One of the more well-known movies starred Marlon and Shawn Wayans in Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. The Movie gained a cult following for spoofing films such as Boyz in the Hood, South Central, Juice, and Menace II Society.

They say that one of the most critical parts of comedy is timing. The Wayans’ Scary Movie primarily aims at Scream, Scream 2, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, giving their parody the advantage of being released at just the right time.

According to Marlon Wayans on a Behind-The-Scenes feature for Scary Movie, they were able to take the commentary on horror by Scream and take it to the next level.

"“Scream was what you call an unfunny spoof. Scream was like…it just said some things. We’re doing the things that Scream thought about doing but didn’t do.”"

The process of writing a parody might seem simple to fans. But balancing doing a true parody with, at times, absurd comedy while still having a narrative can make or break a spoof film.

“In a parody, you still have to tell a story,” Keenan Ivory Wayans told Entertainment Weekly in 2017. “What people tend to do is write a bunch of jokes and just string them together. That won’t hold up; you have to create a narrative.”

Scary Movie remains a triumphant film in the parody genre as a classic horror comedy.

The influence of the Wayans brothers was felt throughout Scary Movie. The film also utilized newcomers and some comedy veterans to pad out the parody, making for memorable sequences. Anna Faris, who played the film’s lead as Cindy Campbell, a mixture of Scream’s Sidney Prescott and I Know What You Did Last Summer’s Julie James, was at times apprehensive about how some of the gags and jokes throughout the film would make her look to audiences.

Faris and her co-star Regina Hall, who played Brenda Meeks, didn’t allow themselves to play the roles half-heartedly, having some of the funniest moments in the entire film.

“Keenen told me two amazing bits of advice,” Faris recalled to Entertainment Weekly. “One was that there’s no vanity in comedy, and two, don’t wink at the audience. You have to be willing to embrace the idea that the audience is going to think you’re an idiot. That was an important lesson to me.”

Right alongside Faris, Hall, and the Wayans, the film’s most memorable performance came from Cheri Oteri, who stole every scene. Oteri plays Gail Hailstorm, a spoof on Gale Weathers from Scream. She arguably had the most standout scenes in the entire film. A highlight is an interview with the film’s Ghostface during a killing.

Following the template of Scream for the direction of its plot to the point of using Carmen Electra to parody the film’s timeless opening, Scary Movie also intelligently didn’t just focus on the horror genre to poke fun at and parody. Scary Movie also parodies films that were part of the pop culture zeitgeist at the time.

Movies such as The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, The Usual Suspects, and The Matrix, among others, were all victims of the film’s parodies. Years later, comedian Dave Chappelle would use a similar strategy of interjecting current pop culture references into his sketch comedy show.

Scary Movie’s July 2000 release surprisingly garnered $110 million at the box office in the first 14 days of its release. At the time, it had the biggest opening for an R-rated film in history. It would go on to make more money than any movie in the Scream franchise, with a $278 million total at the box office.

At the time, it was also the highest-grossing film at the domestic box office that an African-American director helmed. Other than the Austin Powers sequels, it is still the best-performing parody at the box office. On a $19 million budget, it was a behemoth of a victory for all parties involved.

“It still carries its weight this many years later, which is amazing,” Jon Abrahams, who played Bobby Prinze in Scary Movie, told Variety in 2020. “It’s a certified classic. In an industry way, the legacy of that film is celebrated not just by the fans but by the business. It really did set a lot of things in motion.”

Following Scary Movie’s massive success on such a relatively low budget signaled studios to put money behind the parody genre. Unfortunately, a mass production of movies followed, leading to the eventual downfall of the parody. Scary Movie spawned four sequels of varying success, with the film sequel 2001’s Scary Movie 2 rushing through production and then having the series stolen from the Wayans.

There were some parodies or pseudo-spoofs that were of high quality, such as Not Another Teen Movie, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Black Dynamite, Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, and the highly touted Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and The Cabin in the Woods. But, this caliber of movies was few and far between and overshadowed by an overabundance of mediocre parodies.

Much like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man led to superhero films following its template in the 2000s, Scary Movie had its imitators taking its formula. Films like Date Movie, Disaster Movie, and Epic Movie all used Scary Movie’s recipe but lacked its originality, feeling more corporate than genuine attempts at parody.

Over the last ten years, a few horror comedies have stood out, such as What We Do in the Shadows, Happy Death Day, The Babysitter, and most recently, Totally Killer. The parody, however, is more of a forgotten art that is seldom put out.

After Scary Movie, the Wayans put out more comedies, specifically Marlon Wayans, who delivered his own spoof on the paranormal horror sub-genre with A Haunted House. But nothing has been quite the phenomenon that was Scary Movie.

The comedy encapsulates a time period that may not be duplicated in today’s political climate. Or, it would only be put out on a streaming service rather than given a theatrical release.

“What I’ve learned from doing stand-up comedy is the opinions of the people, and the taste of the people is not dictated by the politically correct nature of the social-political climate,” Marlon Wayans said to Variety. “We live in America, and freedom of speech is the First Amendment. With freedom of speech comes freedom of creativity. And I think anybody can do a joke about anything, and it’s just who’s telling the joke and what’s your intention?

“Is your intention to humiliate, or is your intention to make people laugh? Our intention is always to make people laugh.”

Horror and comedy have always walked along the same line. What can be terrifying to one person can make another laugh out loud. Scary Movie is all comedy and set a standard for parodies for a generation. Due to its quality, it only further enhances the love one has for the movies it spoofs.

Next. 31 Days of Horror: Christine- Two masters of horror deliver an underrated classic. dark