Relegated to the months leading up to the summer season, the two films of some of the most talent and popular spoof artists find their release in the dead zone of cinema. While Simon Pegg and Nick Frost try their geek filled humor in in the sci-fi genre with Paul, a Wes Craven returns from whatever subpar dreck he’s been making lately to return to his horror spoof series in Scream 4.
For the sake of comparison, I’d like to compare how these two creative tallents approach the spoof genre, specifically looking at Hot Fuzz and Scream, two of the finest spoof ever made. Both tackle widely popular genres, Scream dissects on the slasher flick while Hot Fuzz disassembles the mechanics of the action film.
In many ways, the two films overlap in the satire of their prospective genres. Both tout movie nerds well versed in the genre of the film they star in and both set expectations of genre fulfillment, only to undermine them. When Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is reassigned to a small town during the events of Hot Fuzz, it’s to show how ridiculous hardcore action film cops would be in reality. The most challenging malfeasance is hunting down an escaped swan.
In Scream, the film opens with a straight-up, horrific and suspenseful sequence where the iconic masked killer of the franchise haunts Drew Barrymore. From here, the film moves into the lives of a tightly knit group of teens are self-aware of all the tropes of the genre, all the traps that would lead to their dead in a slasher flick, and yet they end up falling into them anyway. When Sidney (Neve Campbell) declares she’s not one of those daft blonds who goes running up the stairs when a killer is on the loose, we know that soon enough she’ll be running up a flight of stairs.
Hot Fuzz wouldn’t be much of a movie if it was just Simon Pegg chasing around the swan the whole film. Points must be broken, boys must be bad, or there wouldn’t be any action in the action film spoof. And here is where the films converge. From moment one, Hot Fuzz has been undermining the action tropes and yet the entire film builds to a series of awesome and well done action sequences that are just as indulgent as the films Hot Fuzz is mocking. Yes, it still makes these scenes funny, but the humor is secondary to sequences crafted to rival the latest action flick.
Scream takes a different route. The opening sequence is straight up slasher flick and from there the film begins breaking the tropes of the genre. By the end of the film, almost every cardinal rule of the slasher flick has been broken and the film descends into a bizarre, almost slapstick comedy. Here, the conclusion is the complete departure from the genre, as opposed to Hot Fuzz embracing the tropes of the action genre.
In other words, in terms of satire, the two films have mirrored plot arcs. Hot Fuzz starts off as a spoof of an action film but ends as a straight action film while Scream starts as a straight slasher flick and ends as a spoof of the slasher flick. While there are merits to both approaches, I much prefer the latter as it upends the genre in a bold and interesting way.
But still, Hot Fuzz is a fantastic film and there’s something to be said for that approach. As much as we go to watch a film that makes fun of a popular genre, we do it because we love that genre. I don’t see people who hate action films checking out Hot Fuzz and it certainly proves to be a fine action film, in fact, it’s one of my favorite action films of the last decade.
My major problem is that the Hot Fuzz model of film spoof (which other film certainly did first) has become the prevalent form of spoofing. See last year’s Kick-Ass, which follows the formula down to the letter. Meanwhile, the Scream model of slowly building up to the satire is a complete anomaly. It doesn’t surprise me. There’s something safer about ending your film giving the audience what they want instead of making fun of what they want, but I’d still like to see some bold directors take on the latter approach to crafting a spoof film.