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You Won’t Believe What Movie The Last of Us Creator Wrote 20 Years Ago

Scary Movie 3 was the beginning of a long, painful decline for the parody genre.

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Before The Last of Us and Chernobyl, screenwriter Craig Mazin enjoyed unlikely success writing a different kind of disaster: the Scary Movie franchise.

After two installments that spoofed distinct horror subgenres — teen slashers and vintage haunted house pictures — Scary Movie 3, released in 2003, marked a lazier approach to the formula. These films were no longer zeroed in on specific conventions, but catch-alls for the broader zeitgeist. When anything and everything is on the table, you get a whole lot of nothing. The paycheck was surely a nice one, but it’s curious to wonder what road Mazin went down post-Scary Movie to become the guy behind The Last of Us.

With parodies of The Matrix and 8 Mile, plus heaping doses of casual misogyny and racism that are awkward 20 years later, Scary Movie 3 signaled a standard of mediocrity for a franchise that failed to seize its destiny as the next Monty Python or Mel Brooks. From here onwards, the new millennium’s overload of spoof films exhibited abyssal ambitions as mere satirical year-in-reviews. To anyone who didn’t grow up during the Bush years, watching whatever Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer produced must read like hieroglyphs in an Egyptian tomb.

It’s therefore strange to acknowledge Craig Mazin’s involvement. Since Chernobyl, the writer has won recognition for his humanist storytelling that places a premium on themes like trust, empathy, community, and the evils of bureaucracy. There’s even some comedy in his HBO shows, although none of it loud and obnoxious. Mazin might have an apocalyptic niche, but it’s an appealing one that’s miraculously still resonant post-COVID.

When not dealing with the apocalypse, however, little of Mazin’s usual touches can be found. Comparatively, Scary Movie 3 is at least more watchable than its worse sequel, Scary Movie 4. It might even be funny, depending on your mileage for outdated sophomoric humor (Charlie Sheen’s baffled delivery of “She broke her wiener?” as he struggles to understand a car crash can elicit a guilty chuckle).

Mazin bears co-writing credit with Pat Proft, scribe of more influential comedy classics like Police Academy and The Naked Gun. It’s hard to tell whose comedic fingerprints are on what scenes, and maybe they both just treated it like a potboiler. No matter how many giggles are dragged out of you, nothing in Scary Movie 3 ever feels like it’s the screenwriters’ doing. The actors, director, and editors combine to make an exhausting meal out of every possible punchline.

Perhaps Mazin’s single best contribution to Scary Movie 3 is the presence of a plot, even if it’s a messy one. Series lead Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris), now a TV reporter, becomes entangled with both a cursed video tape (because The Ring was a hit in 2002) and a farming family (led by Charlie Sheen, parodying Mel Gibson in Signs) who aliens target.

Scary Movie 3, co-written by Craig Mazin, marked a decline in movie satire, as it lampooned literally whatever happened to be popular.


Inherent to the series is a cavalcade of cameos, and Scary Movie 3 is no different as the Wu-Tang Clan and George Carlin show up for easy paychecks. Few carry a sting like a visibly uncomfortable Pamela Anderson, where she’s the butt of yet more jokes about her stolen sex tape. Again, it’s hard to believe this is by the same man who made us cry over gay men finding love amid disaster.

The problem with movies like Scary Movie 3 was their singular goal of capturing the fleeting zeitgeist. This leaves so many of its ilk feeling like they were scripted by aliens hovering over Earth, with no intention of returning to calculate the damage they left behind. Scary Movie 3 stands in such stark contrast to the careful, suspenseful writing of Mazin’s later work that it’s almost impossible to believe they came from the same fingertips. But it’s a credit to Mazin’s range that he’s simply capable of doing it all, and anything in-between.

Scary Movie 3 is streaming on HBO Max.

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