With the rise of more torture themed forms of shock horror, Cinema has to adapt, and as extraterrestrials were scaring audiences, horror was looking further afield for the next captivating niche that would pack theatres. In 2006, these trends culminated in a parody film, that despite widening targets offers a time-capsule of the era in Scary Movie 4.
The earth just can’t catch a break, after the Alien Visitors turned out to be friendly, a new batch of extraterrestrial beings called Tripods, not to be confused with iPods, invade. This impacts Cindy, who has taken up a new job looking after elderly Mrs Norris in a haunted house, one may hold the secret to stopping this alien menace. Meanwhile, next-door neighbour, Tom Ryan, struggles with his estranged family, and these aliens aren’t helping matters yet finds some romantic companionship in Cindy, who is recently grieving her husband’s demise. Those Aliens will send them on a journey from war-ravaged civilisation to isolated communities and the twisted mind of the Jigsaw killer himself.
The ever-broadening trajectory that the series has been following manifests itself here, and the spectacle of War of the Worlds offers a more universal threat than the cornfield shenanigans of Scary Movie 3. As a result, Scary Movie 4 feels wider in its scope, with a global sense to the comedy that can be seen in the properties parodied. Building upon the Ring parody of the third film is a send-up of Toshio from The Grudge franchise. One that manages to lead to Shyamalan’s The Village, which is also heavily parodied, and thus living up to the promise Scary Movie 3 had while managing to pull in Bill Pullman and bring back Chris Elliot. Charlie Sheen is back as well, only to be ceremoniously killed off in the intro. Though it is an astute parody of the rising Saw movies that almost bookends this film; with constant jabs at Million Dollar Baby and Brokeback Mountain, the result feels like one that far outstretches the confines of being just a scary film parody.
The pop culture scope is also enlarged, making up for the fluctuating definition of what constitutes scary, Most notably the rise of iPods. Linking the distinctive music player and H. G. Well’s formidable aliens is a smart move. With the Tripod menace comes a return of President Baxter and a topical lampoon of the then-current U.S. administration. This is probably due to the objection over his depiction in 3, but Michael Jackson returns for a spoofing. Though once again, a multitude of stars are willing to comically debase themselves, such as Shaq and Dr Phil McGraw, who both start in the delightful Saw lampoon. Tom Cruise’s characters and personality are also a target for japes, especially his infamous stunt on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Rewatching Scary Movie 4, a tremendous amount of Déjà vu persists throughout. A more pop-cultured look at society than the previous three films, a look that is on par with those other Movie parodies. Zucker seems keen on extracting every bit of comic potential out of President Baxter and seeing both of them return is great, as is the ever-increasing stars they parody, both willingly or not. Although the threat of the end of the world as we know it, with Scary Movie 4, you’ll feel more than fine.
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