Scary Movie, 1991.
Directed by Daniel Erickson.
Starring John Hawkes, Suzanne Aldrich, Butch Patrick, Ev Lunning, and Zane Rockenbaugh.
A nervous young man believes that an escaped killer is stalking him at a Halloween carnival.
This Scary Movie is not the horror movie spoof from the 2000s but a low budget regional horror movie from 1991, and the latest release from 101 Films’ collection of AGFA (American Genre Film Archive) titles, which means – in the best possible way – you should lower your expectations a little as this is not polished studio product.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watch either, because despite its budgetary shortcomings, Scary Movie does tap into the Halloween spirit in a way that many an expensive studio production tries to but, more often than not, doesn’t. It also tries hard to appeal to slasher fans with its setup and execution but somewhere along the way it loses its focus.
Warren (John Hawkes) is an awkward, geeky young man who just seems to be one of life’s victims, which is exactly what he becomes after a bus carrying a dangerous prisoner crashes and the prisoner escapes, just as Warren is attending a local carnival and hears the news on the radio. His evening is already going badly as his friend has set him up with a beautiful date who seems more interested in everybody else than Warren, the local hoods take to having their fun with him while he waits in line for a haunted house exhibit, and there is a strange bearded man who cannot stop pointing at Warren and howling with laughter.
Once inside the ride, things don’t improve as Warren’s already sky-high levels of paranoia and anxiety go off the chart , and he starts to believe the escaped criminal madman is inside the haunted house, forcing him to defend himself against the cloaked and hooded figures he sees coming for him through the smoke machines. But is Warren really being pursued by a killer, or is it all a paranoid delusion?
Well, given this movie’s restrictions it won’t come as a total surprise because, well, the filmmakers are hardly going to blow their already meagre budget on lots of fancy costumes, effects and gruesome kill scenes, and unfortunately that is where the movie begins to lose its way because bloody slasher kills and gritty ultra-violence is what is, if not exactly promised, at least signalled at during the first act thanks to the tick-box of horror movie tropes that we get.
But don’t be too disheartened if you are looking for a gory Halloween bloodbath because what Scary Movie does have is that independent regional horror movie vibe that keeps things moving along at a decent clip, and despite coming in at only 82 minutes, with very little in the way of graphic violence, there is a sense of style and ambition to it that is as endearing as Warren is punchable, and such is the conviction of John Hawkes’ gawky performance that you do start to sympathise with those who are poking fun at him.
As is the case with many of these AGFA titles that are getting re-released on Blu-ray, the picture quality isn’t great but thanks to some inventive use of colours in the set designs Scary Movie is not as ugly on the eye as movies of this nature and budget normally are, and, also as with many an AGFA title, it is only likely to appeal to a certain subset of movie fans who relish the shoddiness and unprofessionalism of the grindhouse aesthetic, but given that many of these titles tread a fine line between irony and awful, Scary Movie does rank as one of the more watchable entries.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★