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Scary Movie (1991)

At first I thought it was a mistake.

My TCM Underground recording a couple weeks ago simply said Scary Movie without any additional information. So I figured--what I considered a fairly rational deduction--that it was some kind of cable box programming error. Me not knowing what it was and all, it sat around unwatched.

That is, until today, when I went through my recordings to clear out some shit. I pushed play, just to determine what it was and see if I was gonna delete it for space or save it for later. Then up pops the AGFA logo, and I let out an audible "oh fuck..."

Thus, in the middle of the afternoon, with absolutely no intention of sitting through an entire movie, I sat back and went on the journey. You just have to be spontaneous like that sometimes. Hell, I guess I could be somebody's version of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

And lo and behold, it was Scary Movie! But the 1991 Scary Movie, a regional slasher comedy from Austin, TX. This film apparently didn't have any distribution until AGFA dug it up last year and released it on Blu-ray. Which is a damn shame, because it's a total gem.

The movie stars John Hawkes--yes, that John Hawkes (or as the AGFA press materials like to point out, the Academy Award-nominated John Hawkes). He plays Warren, an anxiety-ridden young man hanging out with his bud at a low-rent haunt on Halloween night. Warren is the sheepish, nerdy type, with Hawkes channeling Don Knotts à la The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and looking like the runner up in a DJ Qualls goof-a-like contest. His friend (Jason Russel Waller) is the horny kind of sort who refuses to leave because the place is a complete "chest fest."

Meanwhile, a van transporting a dangerous mental patient crashes, freeing him. Elsewhere, a farmer pets his cow and lovingly says the words "You make me wanna crap green onions." Back inside the haunt, strange things begin to happen, and Warren begins to believe a mad man is stalking people making their way through. Y'know, your standard fare.

Directed by a 19-year-old Daniel Erickson and shot on 16mm, the film also sports a solid, psychedelic soundtrack, featuring the Butthole Surfers and Roky Erickson (I assume maybe some relation to the director). This is Troma-level stuff, budget-wise, but Erickson shows a knack for staging a scene that's beyond his years. The camera angles and editing are clever and so in tuned with 80's horror tropes, that not only does the film set up potent scares, it constructs effective jokes, using your own genre knowledge and expectations against you.

This is funny shit. It's dumb shit, but funny shit nevertheless. Plus, for those of you always on the lookout for a fun, Halloween-set movie, add this to the list. For as many things as this movie isn't, it's definitely a love letter to the holiday. As the film says:

Halloween night. The most thrilling holiday. Christmas is too expensive. Thanksgiving is for turkeys. Easter is for anyone who believes rabbits lay eggs. But Halloween, creatures of the dark reign supreme.


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