The Scary Movie parody wagon has been rolling since 2000, when the Wayans Brothers pooled their considerable comedic talents and came up with a kitchen sink flick that riffed on mainly horror movies — with just a little Matrix thrown in. The second Scary Movie, also from the brothers Wayan, riffed on The Exorcist, The Legend of Hell House, Poltergeist, Little Shop of Horrors, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shining, and Hannibal. Non-horror targets included Dirty Harry, Charlie’s Angels, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and again, The Matrix.


A couple of years passed, and the directorial torch was passed to Airplane! genius-with-a-joke David Zucker for Scary Movie 3. Without Wayans, the genre widened a bit to add even more non-horror movie spoofs and much more current films. It was a box-office hit, so of course you knew what was coming…


Scary Movie 4, with all the core regulars back in action, makes fun of War of the Worlds, The Grudge, The Village, Saw and Saw II, Million Dollar Baby, and Brokeback Mountain. With a better through-line connecting all the stories than its predecessor, Scary Movie 4 is a refreshing (albeit rank) addition to the series. Anna Faris and Regina Hall are back as the clueless Cindy Campbell, and the sex-crazed Brenda Meeks, respectively.


When Cindy takes a job as the caretaker of an elderly woman (Cloris Leachman), she runs into some scary ghosts with a grudge. But things start looking up when she meets her handsome new neighbor, Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko). Unfortunately, Tom is distracted by troubles of his own — namely a bitter ex-wife, two clingy kids, and, oh yeah: An alien invasion, sparked by the ground-breaking appearance of the "iPods". When Tom, his family, and Cindy are forced to flee and find a way to beat the huge, deadly alien-machines, they take a few side-trips.


One such trip takes Cindy and her best friend Brenda into The Village, a place where time stands still and the resident blind girl (Carmen Electra) can't find the outhouse. Returnees from Scary Movie 3 include Charlie Sheen (spoofing Bill Pullman The Grudge; turnabout is fair play, so Bill Pullman is also in Scary Movie 4), Simon Rex, Leslie Neilsen as our Commander in Chief, and Anthony Anderson and Kevin Hart who've changed their Eight Mile tune to the Brokeback Mountain hoe-down/get down.


I was impressed not only by the logical knitting of the storylines (only Brokeback Mountain is forced to fit, but it's okay as a flashback), but by the attention to detail. The sets and set design, especially for The Grudge and Saw, are flawless and even the costumes are perfectly fitted to the characters for each skit.


The only bet they really missed was a zombie movie spoof (when Brenda returns from the dead — The Ring curse killed her in Scary Movie 3 — it's just glossed over).


Despite too much scatological humor (just a personal bias of mine), Scary Movie 4 is a laugh-out-loud funny, well-directed and well-acted comedy that's a perfect kick-off to the summer popcorn season. To say much more would spoil the surprises, so all I'll say is: If you like the Scary Movie franchise, be sure and catch this one on the big screen.