• Scary Movie (AGFA) Blu-ray Review

    Scary Movie (AGFA) Blu-ray Review
    Released by: AGFA
    Released on: October 15th, 2019.
    Director: Daniel Erickson
    Cast: John Hawkes, Suzanne Aldrich, Ev Lunning, Mark Voges, Ernie Taliaferro, Butch Patrick, Jason Waller
    Year: 1991
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    Scary Movie – Movie Review:

    “Abandon hope, all ya’all who enter here!”

    Warren (John Hawkes, the future Oscar nominee who would later play Sol Star on Deadwood!) is a meek, nerdy guy who looks like a cross between Crispin Glover and Mackenzie Crook (you know, Gareth from the UK version of The Office). On Halloween night, he meets up with his pal Brad (Jason Waller), who looks kind of like Jerry Butler (especially that hair) to hook up with two ladies. These two lucky gals are Brad’s girlfriend Shelly (Virigina Pratt), who made dressing like a bee cool two years before Blind Melon did it, and Barbara (Suzanne Aldrich), a space case with glitter all over her face who likes to steal things from restaurants. Together, they stand in line for a very long time to get into a haunted house. A guy credited in the film as ‘laughing man’ laughs at Warren a lot, and proves to be the best part of the film.

    Meanwhile, Sheriff Pat Briggs (Ev Lunning), who is currently running for re-election, gets word that a killer named John Louis Barker (Lee Gettys) has escaped from a nearby mental hospital. Briggs and his team of daring lawmen scour the area but find no sign of Gettys. Under the assumption that he’ll kill again, they figure he’s gone and hidden himself away inside the confines of the haunted house where Warren and company are about to go for a night of fun. When Warren goes to take a leak (where he stands in line again) he overhears some police chatter on the radio about Gettys’ escape – but when he tells his pals, no one believes him…

    Nothing much really happens in the first half of this movie. People stand in line. They smoke. Warren goes pee. Barbara makes weird faces. The laughing man, thankfully, laughs LOT, which is great. We see some hillbilly types inside the haunted house prepare to spook the kids and at one point some bullies show up and harass Warren. Brad and Shelly smooch. But yeah, there’s no real excitement or tension here at all, even if the filmmakers are cool enough to use Roky Erickson’s ‘I Walked With A Zombie’ on the soundtrack and, later, The Butthole Surfers. Still, this is very watchable and, if you enjoy nonsense (or people standing in line), even actually entertaining thanks to the sheer goofiness of it all. Standing in line with the characters gives us a chance to hang out with them. I think laughing man and I would have been good friends in real life.

    Once Warren and company get into the haunted house, things do improve considerably in terms of, well, stuff actually happening. There are a couple of mildly gory kills and some goofy humor. A couple of jump scares and a scene where Warren tries to smooch Barbara only for her to yawn in his face. Barbara is a weirdo and while Warren is hardly a hunk of the month, you kind of leave this movie thinking he could do better. Warren, however, likes to look at her breasts. Anyway, what matters most about the last half of the movie is that we spend it pretty much entirely with Warren inside the haunted house – and if we learned anything from Todd Sheets’ Nightmare Asylum (and we most certainly did), it’s that haunted houses are sometimes enough to carry a film. This haunted house is particularly cool. Outside it has a live rattlesnake in a terrarium while inside it has a bride that goes over a snake pit! It also has a room where a guy named Jerry drinks Shiner (everyone drinks Shiner in this movie, there’s even a truck of it featured early on and the Shiner brewery is thanked in the end credits) and pretends to chop up a guy with a mullet. When Warren winds up stranded in the house, Hawkes’ previously ‘I’m just a dork’ performance turns into a far more entertaining ‘I’ve lost my goddamn might’ performance and the movie takes a couple of interesting turns. Butch Patrick, of all people, has a cameo in the film as a carnie and there’s a fun reference to his character on The Munsters in the film.

    Production values are modest, but there are a lot of neat scenes with rubber masks, cheap gore and red paint splattered all over the haunted house which lets the movie look more expensive than it really was. Hawkes is definitely the best actor of the group and while none of the other performers really jump out at you, they’re all goofy and/or quirky enough to somehow belong in this movie. The film’s synth score suits the picture really nicely. There’s a lot of odd, local flavor to the picture which was shot in Austin, Texas.

    The movie’s title card just reads ‘SCARY MOVIE’ and it has a bar code underneath. The film’s production company is called ‘Generic Movies.’ This is truth in advertising. There isn’t a whole lot about Scary Movie that’s particularly original but it’s fun in its own goofy way. Worth seeing for laughing man alone, this scary movie isn’t actually very scary but it is loaded with screwy, low budget charm (and people standing in line).

    Scary Movie – Blu-ray Review:

    Scary Movie gets its worldwide home video debut on this release from AGFA. Presented in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio and taken from a 2k scan of the original 16mm negative, the movie looks pretty good here. Some print damage is noticeable here and there but for the most part the quality of the transfer is quite strong. It’s as grainy as you’d expect a low budget 16mm production to look but there’s decent detail here and the colors look quite nice. AGFA’s transfer is very filmic, there isn’t any noticeable digital trickery here, no edge enhancement or obvious noise reduction to gripe about. Compression artifacts aren’t ever a problem, skin tones look fine. This’ll do quite nicely, thanks.

    Audio chores are handled by a DTS-HD 2.0 track in English. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. There’s some noticeable sibilance here throughout the duration of the film. If you take that out of the equation the audio is fine, but it’s there and hard not to miss. Otherwise, the dialogue is pretty clear and the levels are properly balanced. The music sounds pretty decent too.

    The biggest and best of the extra features on the disc is an audio commentary with director Daniel Erickson and Joseph A. Ziemba of AGFA. It starts with Ziemba gushing about the film a bit, talking about how Scary Movie was able to buck the trends compared to popular horror cinema of the day, how the film works as a valentine to spook shows and Halloween. Erickson talks about how they weren’t necessarily aware of their influences while they were making the film but he does acknowledge the film as a response to slasher films, noting that he was a fan of horror movies growing up and pointing out tributes to other horror pictures in the film and how they wound up borrowing props from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 on the shoot. They talk about how the film toys with what’s real and what isn’t in the context of the film, how they built the spook house in the film from the ground up specifically for the shoot and the art direction and set design that went into making that happen, why we spend so much time in line in the film (it’s intentional) and how John Hawkes wound up being in the film and by doing so made enough money to move from Austin to Hollywood to launch his career and what specifically Hawkes is able to bring to the production. Ziemba does a very good job of getting Erickson to open up about his influences and the planning that went into the film, which leads to some interesting discussion. There’s talk here about the other actors that appear in the film and how everyone was Austin based (Hawkes was the only one who didn’t have to audition), how friends and family were used to round out the cast, the importance of Iven Bigley’s cinematography and the quality of the visuals due to his involvement, the evolution of the script over the span of a few years, the film’s budget (which was under two-hundred grand, raising the money for the film, the costume design in the picture, how Butch Patrick wound up appearing in the picture, how it rained during the bulk of the shoot, the Austin film scene of the nineties, how and why the film never had a U.S. distribution deal outside of some self-distribution in Austin, getting his films seen by Amblin as a teenager in the eighties and meeting Joe Dante while Amazing Stories was being made and sneaking onto the set of TCM2 and eventually getting to hang out with Tobe Hooper during the production! They also cover the synth score in the film, how Roky Erickson’s music wound up in the film (they’re not related) and how John Hawkes was the one who encouraged the use of The Butthole Surfers’ music in the film. It’s a really interesting and detailed track that does a great job of exploring the history of the picture.

    AGFA has also included two short films from Erickson, the first of which is Mr. Pumpkin from 1986, a very cool eleven-minute story about a boy, while on a midnight quest for candy, who imagines a pumpkin turning into a monster on Halloween night. It’s partially a tribute to Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but also a very cool snapshot of Halloween in the eighties and it’s a seriously cool little film that’s absolutely worth checking out. The second short film is Little Hero, a seven-minute piece set in 1933 that details the exploits of a kid who sneaks into The Ritz Movie Theater to watch an old western. He gets busted and chased by the usher and chaos ensues. This one is also pretty fun, it’s interesting to see these included here as Erickson was literally a teenager when he made these.

    Rounding things out nicely it an ‘original theatrical teaser trailer’ (which is a mildly amusing seventeen-second gag), a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release, the Blu-ray disc also comes with a DVD disc taken from the same scan and featuring the same extras. AGFA packages this bad boy with some neat reversible cover art with an illustration by Charles Forsman on one side and some vintage promo art on the opposite side.

    Scary Movie – The Final Word:

    Scary Movie isn’t scary but it is pretty neat. It takes a while for anything to really happen but the relaxed tone of the first half is enjoyable enough and the more intense second act delivers some pretty neat atmosphere and a lot of action inside an admittedly very cool haunted house. It’s interesting to see Hawkes here in his first starring role and, again, laughing man steals every scene he’s in (which is a lot of them). AGFA rescues this one from undeserved cinematic obscurity with a pretty nice Blu-ray release. The audio is imperfect but the transfer is quite nice and the extras are pretty keen, especially that genuinely interesting commentary track. I had a lot of fun with this one, and now that it’s on Blu-ray and DVD, you can too.

    Click on the images below for full sized Scary Movie Blu-ray screen caps!