Monday, May 10, 2021

Shriek (2000)

When Scream came out in 1996, it breathed new life into the horror genre, giving way to a 'teen horror' boom that permeated the market. Not everyone is a fan of scream especially not the often mediocre films it left in its wake, but one can't deny it was a pretty influential movie. It received a parody in the form of Scary Movie, while while some question the need for such a thing when Scream was already a pretty meta commentary, that was a pretty popular movie, and spawned its own series. But it wasn't the only parody of Scream out there...

At Bulimia Falls high school, the students are being murdered one by on. As the useless authorities try and find the killer, five teenagers realise they are specifically marked for death by this mysterious killer. They set out to discover their identity, and to stop them before they too are cut down in their prime...

I first saw Shriek as a young child, and greatly enjoyed it, even if I didn't totally get all the jokes. I hadn't seen it since then, and was a little worried about whether it would hold up or not. Thankfully while Shriek might not be a perfect movie, it still entertains.

The full name of the movie is Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th, which is bloated and unnecessary. I always just knew it as Shriek, ala Scream. Either that lengthy title was dropped for its Australian release, or I just never noticed the smaller print.

The story here is your typical tale of high school students with secrets, who start dropping like flies. It takes inspiration from Scream in how the killer looks, but a lot of the story beats actually come from I Know What You Dd Last Summer, which helps differentiate this from Scary Movie. Even though both films poke fun at the genre as a whole, that film's main target was Scream. The plot here isn't exactly cohesive, with many threads and tangents that never really add in, and are only inserted for a laugh. This works reasonably well, since this isn't a story anyone would take seriously to begin with.

The sense of humour in Shriek might divide. It's pretty puerile and lowbrow. Cleaner in some ways that Scary Movie, but still pretty gross at times, with a frankly annoying preoccupation on sex and teen pregnancy jokes. Other jokes I still don't get all these years later, like the whole deer flasback with Dawson. These bits aside though, I laughed quite a bit here. It's by no means intelligent humour, but a lot of it works reasonably well.

As a parody, Shriek definitely wears its inspirations on its sleeve, with a few overt shoutouts to movies like Airplane, and to Leslie Nielsen. These are pretty unsubtle, but are at least respectful.

Another thing to note, Shriek feels very much of its time in that it's a product of the late 90s/early 2000s, so your tolerance of the movie really depends on your feelings toward this particular period. As for me I grew up with it AND I don't like it, so that's already two reasons why movies like this aren't usually on my radar. As for Shriek, it's obviously good that I can enjoy it, though it still definitely bears all the hallmarks of the era.

The characters here are a weird bunch, each with their own quirks and cliches, from the mysterious newcomer, to the witch main girl, the slutty cheerleader, the lame-o virgin, and dumb jock. Despite being the only characters actually sent threatening letters, they make it through most of the movie unharmed, with the killer mainly targeting random students in the background for much of the runtime. The killer has an amusing enough personality, which can be seen despite always wearing a mask, although I really coulda done without that shower scene, yikes/yeesh!

The actors all do decent enough performances too, barring a couple of pretty bland ones. Of note are Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Simon Rex, alumni of later Scary Movie entries, and Julie Benz. Coolio also features in a Prince parody, and surprisingly Shirley Jones (of The Partridge Family), and Rose Marie have small roles too, not that I noticed them.

There's a pretty decent soundtrack on display here, with the most notable being a cover version of Pretty in Pink. No idea why it plays, especially in the scene it does, but it makes for a fun addition, and if t was intended in the spirit of homage, then I appreciate it, even if it is the wrong genre altogether.

Shriek may not be the funniest movie around, and not the best parody, but it's a lot better than its reputation suggests. Far from being the worst movie ever, it's leagues above the horrible parody movies that would come, and is worth a watch if it's your cup of tea...

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