Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen: Surely the king of paranormal spoofs

Actor Leslie Nielsen died Sunday at the age of 84. He was an accomplished actor before he took on parody in the 1980 flick Airplane! and followed it up with the 1982 series Police Squad!, which spawned the '88 franchise The Naked Gun.

Nielsen was a slapstick hero who delivered comedy gold in my preteen years - then, as my tastes became more sophisticated, he was a hero for my teenage, college and 20-something years. This being a site dedicated to paranormal, I wanted to focus on the genre parodies Nielsen starred in, Repossessed, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, and Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4  

Repossessed is the 1990 spoof of The Exorcist (a spoof 17 years in the making) starring Nielsen as the Max von Sydow-esque priest. Linda Blair reprises her role as the target of possession, only instead of "Regan," she's Nancy, a full-grown woman who gets - say it with me now - repossessed by the devil. The movie wasn't very good and
hasn't aged well (the Pee-Wee Herman joke was lame, and besides P-dubs is cool again - and the Jesse "The Body" Ventura cameo is just creepy now) and it comes nowhere near the genius of Airplane!

In 1995, Nielsen teamed with Mel Brooks for Dracula: Dead and Loving It, a parody of vampire the Hammer vampire films and Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). The pairing of Brooks and Nielsen is inspired, and the film is an easy-to-digest primer for the genius that is Young Frankenstein. It is not as funny as Brooks' other modern spoofs Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men In Tights, but Nielsen still owns the movie vamping it up as a heavily-accented, daymare-dreaming Count.

Leslie Nielsen's appearances in the Scary Movie franchise allowed him to play the elder statesman of spoof and pass along most of the action to younger performers. As dreadful as the Nielsen-less Scary Movie 2 was, SM3 & SM4 were much improved. Nielsen as President Baxter Harris provided some of the brightest spots, but really, it was just comforting to see him doing his thing alongside Anna Faris and Charlie Sheen.