You know, this whole reviewing horror movies gig may seem like a gas, but truth be told, it’s a pretty tiring lifestyle. I love it, and wouldn’t trade it for the world, don’t get me wrong, but for every film that absolutely scares the piss out of me or floors me with creativity, I’ve got to deal with barely tolerable bottom of the barrel garbage instead of doing something productive towards humanity.
A Haunted House unfortunately is the latter in that scenario, attempting to turn found footage horror films on their head with edgy situational comedy, but instead relies on immature potty humor and sexual innuendoes thought up by child-like minds who probably still laugh at the word “duty” (hehehe), ignoring what real satirical fun could have been drawn from such pitiful source movies.
Ripping off films like The Devil Inside, The Last Exorcism, Paranormal Activity, so on and so on, this Marlon Wayans vessel might dive to even lower depths than some of the shite films mentioned above. At least the original horror flicks came with something “new” to a brutally over-abused genre, whereas Michael Tiddes’ film feels content beating originally unfunny jokes far deeper than six feet into the ground.
The plot mostly follows Paranormal Activity, featuring a man named Malcolm (Wayans) who is so excited his girlfriend Keisha (Essence Atkins) decided to move into his home, he buys a fancy new video camera and wants to document the whole ordeal. But as soon as Keisha moves in, something strange starts happening, something so evil and maniacal it starts driving Malcolm insane – he stops getting laid. No matter how hard he tries, Keisha refuses to give it up as much anymore. Oh yeah, she’s also haunted by an evil demon, but didn’t you hear me? MALCOLM ISN’T GETTING SEXED ENOUGH!
So begins our trivial exercise in “horrific” dick and fart jokes, following Malcolm’s quest to vanquish whatever spirit now inhabits his humble abode, unlocking Keisha’s naughty bits for good. Also dominating the script are expected racial jokes depicting how dumb white people always are in horror movies (can’t really argue that) and how African-Americans would really react instead of their on-screen stereotypes. Actually, that’s pretty much the whole movie, minus the times Marlon Wayans does something kinky or unforgivable for shock value. Not to mention there is nothing provocative or insightful about the way said material is presented, coming off as tasteless and overused as you’d expect. I commend the bold actions of Marlon Wayans for doing anything to get a laugh, and I mean ANYTHING, but sadly it isn’t always funny. Being taken advantage of by a sexually abusive ghost? “A” for effort, but “F” for execution.
You know what though, as emphatic and overbearing A Haunted House‘s racial component is, the single gut-busting moment (joker spoiler to follow) of the whole debacle exists watching Malcolm first react to the demon’s presence, ignoring opening doors and moving beds, until finally doing what all rational people in that situation would do – peacing the hell out. Watching Marlon scream like a girl and bolt as far away as possible was admittedly good fun, and I found myself roaring in laughter with the crowd (joke spoiler ended). Aside from that though, juvenile humor felt forced and too ”in your face” stupid, and honestly not all that relevant to a film supposedly making a commentary on found footage horror.
Wayans is joined by other comedic talents along the way, playing bit characters exploited by other films. David Koechner and Dave Sheridan show up as paranormal investigators filming their own show, Nick Swardson plays a gay (surprise?) psychic, and Cedric The Entertainer comes in as a prison minister - all with the common goal of helping Malcolm defeat the demon. Except Swardson, he’s trying to f#ck Malcolm the whole time.
Or should I say, Koechner is an awkwardly racist middle-aged white dude, Sheridan pretty much plays Doofy from Scary Movie again, Swardson’s only purpose is to barrage Malcolm with ill-advised sexual advances, and Cedric The Entertainer is a priest from the streets, and also the funniest side-character amid more poorly executed jokes. Taking Swardson for example, his character could have been dissected as a corny horror movie psychic, pointing out how silly some connections they make are or what people believe. Sure, there’s one or two jokes as such, but such a larger emphasis is put on Swardson’s character creepily hitting on Malcolm. Funny the first time, but after the 737th time, all original thought and reaction are out the window. The same goes for all three characters, falling victim to the same overbearing scripting problems that plague 98% of A Haunted House.
A Haunted House really just feels like Scary Movie 4.5, substituting a tad more (just as terrible) story work for random “celebrity” cameos. Such a film fits in perfectly with the typical January stereotype of poor releases, gearing us up for bigger and better things to come while delivering a laugh-less attempt to skewer an entire genre of horror – completely missing the point of what makes a spoof film successful.
But hey, comedy is comedy, and I know some people are going to find Tiddes’ film hysterical. There were people in my screening almost crying from laughter, and I can positively say certain audiences are going to eat up every goofy moment Marlon Wayans has to offer. Me? I’m obviously not one of them. But I haven’t liked any Scary Movie knock off (Meet The Spartans, Superhero Movie, Stan Helsing, ect.) since Scary Movie 2, and even that was a stretch, but if you can still find enjoyment in these mass produced pop-culture bursting piñatas, by all means, give A Haunted House a shot. These films gross millions, so someone has to be seeing them, even if it isn’t me, right? Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…