In July 2000, an ill-mannered movie called "Scary Movie" elbowed its way into theaters, promoted with posters announcing its call to action: "No mercy. No shame. No sequel."
In the years since, the series has slaughtered "Scream," crucified "Charlie's Angels" and mocked "The Matrix." It returns this week for its third sequel.
As far as promises go, well, two out of three ain't bad.
"What makes it different from any other franchise is that it's always fresh," said director David Zucker, returning for his second "Scary" flick. "We're only as good as the movies we spoof, and it keeps getting replenished with new stupid movies that Hollywood puts out."
It also helps that the nature of satirical films requires that all common sense be thrown out the window. "We've died before and come back," said star Anna Faris, looking over at co-star Carmen Electra. "I've died before. You've died too."
Nobody expects the series to make sense anymore, and as the latest installment occupies itself with everything from alien iPods to rump-shaking sperm cells, it doesn't disappoint. Much like rap music or reality TV, high-browed critics have begrudgingly accepted the supposed fad, with the spoof-movie genre now in its third decade of existence.
"I thought that 30 years later, I'd be comfortably out of the business and having fun in Maui or something, but there's the gambling debts and the house to think of," said Zucker, who co-created the genre with 1980's "Airplane!" "Our next movie will be 'Scary Movie 5: Maui.' "
Surely, he can't be serious.
"He understands the choreography of a scene really well, like, for instance, when I take a ball to the face," Faris said. "Like a football or a baseball, he knows that we can't just cut in a stunt double who'll take the ball to the face for me, that it actually has to be me in the entire shot, so you see me turning into it and then going down. I thank him for that."
"It wasn't that it would be funny," Zucker said. "I was trying to win a directing award."
Although the fourth "Scary Movie" features re-creations of award-worthy flicks from "Million Dollar Baby" to "Brokeback Mountain," Zucker's Best Director Oscar chances are likely to vanish once voters see Leslie Nielsen's bare butt, Charlie Sheen's Viagra-fueled cameo, or a blind Electra mistaking a crowded chapel for a private bathroom stall.
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"I got a little bit of a surprise, because originally my potty scene was a little different," the "Starsky & Hutch" sexpot said of the scene spoofing "The Village." "There was a guy standing with a hose, and the water was hitting the bucket so it made a certain sound, and then it changed later. I remember when I got the call from one of the producers saying, 'I hope this is OK, but there's been a little change in your scene.'
"I was nervous. I was like, 'Did they cut it out?' " she continued. "[He said] they changed the sound effects so it was more like number two. But it was worth it. It's all for the laughs."
"They supersized it," said Craig Bierko of "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," who joins the series for its fourth installment.
"But it was just like a sexy pee," Faris said.
"It was a very sexy pee," Electra laughed. "It was a little tinkle. It was a nice release."
To make a successful spoof film, Zucker said, it isn't enough to simply pick a hit movie and make fun of it. The reason the director has brought back so many "Scary" regulars, and even resurrected actors like Electra and Chris Elliott to play different characters, is simple: They have no shame.
"There's a scene where I wear a huge bottom," Faris said. "It's a flashback scene where I'm with my first husband, and it's a side of Cindy that you've never seen before. I wear this enormously huge foam butt, and it was just irresistible to the men. Everybody was pinching it and putting their coffee mugs down on it. I felt harassed but loved."
"I was really looking forward to a day when there were gonna be a lot of monkeys on the set, because I like monkeys. I think they're funny," Bierko said. "I showed up and I was very excited for about a month because the monkey day was coming. ... We came, and there were only three monkeys."
"And they said, 'You can't look them in the eye, or they'll kill you,' " Zucker added. "That happened to be my favorite moment."
The only thing more dangerous than the chimps, it seems, may have been Electra.
"I'm playing Holly the blind girl and I have a cane, and there's a scene where I hit Bill Pullman, who plays my father in the movie, between the legs," the actress said. "And because I'm blind, I couldn't really look down at his crotch while I was doing it, so my aim was a little off. I think there were a few times when I may have gone off to the left and ... it was hurting [him]. He was wearing a cup, but I hurt him pretty bad."
No mercy. No shame.
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