At what point do self-awareness and flip irony double back and smack themselves in the face? The straight-to-cable Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th (it originally aired on USA Networks) is supposedly a parody of the teen horror genre, but considering the self-aware mockery of Scream, this film actually attempts to parody a parody. That is a daunting, thankless task which would require master parodists to pull it off. The makers of Shriek… are not those people.
Shriek‘s plot, as it were, is a stew of those from Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, centering around five students trying to avoid The Killer, a mysterious bungler in that now omnipresent Edvard Munch ‘The Scream’ mask who knows embarrassing secrets about each of the students, including the fact that one student forgot to give her grandmother her laxative. Ha ha!
One major fault of Shriek… is that it lacks a principal sympathetic character, a la Neve Campbell in Scream or Anna Faris in Scary Movie. The five victims-in-waiting are horror movie archetypes – slutty blond cheerleader, nerd, slightly punkish girl, new kid, and, well, the other guy – none of who emerges as the protagonist. Because of this, we watch the film drift without a storyline to follow or a character to care about, and are therefore left to thrash hopelessly in the muck of the infantile sex and fart jokes or gags that are just plain lazy. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen’s news reporter works for a channel called Empty V. Another character passes gas near a fireplace, and blows up a house. The nerd’s name is Boner (‘that’s BAH-ner, sir’). There is even an announcement over the school intercom calling for Mike Hunt and Heywood Jablowme to come to the principal’s office. It seemed, at times, that the movie was just a hair away from being two hours of a man making fart noises with his armpit.
Unfortunately, even the jokes not drenched in immaturity often fall flat. At one point, out of nowhere, the characters strut forward in slow motion, the shot and accompanying song a rip from that now-classic scene from Reservoir Dogs. But here, the scene has no context, and therefore no humor. Jon Favreau parodied the exact same shot in Swingers after a discussion of those types of films, and it was hilarious. The makers of Shriek confused funny with simply familiar, thinking we’d laugh just because we recognize the shot. Humor requires context, and even the most basic sight gag needs a foundation.
Ultimately, part of the blame for failed parodies like Shriek… lies in the inspiration of the Zucker Brothers, whose Airplane! and Naked Gun films were the high-water mark for sight gag parodies. The makers of Shriek… were obviously inspired by the Zuckers, and even allude to Airplane! and Naked Gun in a scene where one character recites the rules of parody.
Shriek‘s creators, however, missed rule number one, a rule the Zucker brothers mastered, which is that even a sight-gag film needs a coherent plot and ‘real’ (within their own universe) characters. Airplane was, from beginning to end, the tale of a plane doomed to crash and the pilot conquering his demons to save it, even as Leslie Nielsen appeared amongst a panicked flight crew reminding them never to call him Shirley. The true genius of that film was that even as we laughed our asses off, we also rooted for Robert Hays to land the plane and resolve his relationship with Julie Hagerty. Airplane! would not have been a classic without that, and many parody filmmakers never learned that lesson.
As such, Shriek… is little more than a series of non-sequiturs thrown at the wall, hoping to make someone, anyone, laugh.
The movie’s most telling scene comes when, after the ‘rules of parody’ lecture, the characters decide to watch Airplane!. It is by far the smartest move made by any character in this movie, and exactly what you should do, as opposed to renting Shriek, if you desire a funny, well-made parody.