January 11, 2013 (USA)
Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez
Marlon Wayan as Malcolm
Marlene Forte as Rosa
Essence Atkins as Kisha
David Koechner as Dan the Security Man
Dave Sheridan as Bob
Nick Swardson as Chip the Psychic
Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) is excited because his pretty girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) is coming to live with him. But, problems soon arise when she hits his dog with her car, killing it, and she won’t have sex with him. Those are the least of his issues though, as she’s also bought a ghost with her that soon begins to haunt them. As it turns out; she had made a deal with the Devil as a kid for a nice pair of shoes. And, as things get more crazy they call for the help of a psychic, who ends up being an over-the-top gay man with a soft spot for bondage gear. When Kisha ultimately ends up being possessed, Malcolm calls the psychic back, as well as a reality show ghost hunter brother duo that don’t trust black people and a priest who spent time in jail. Of course, this all leads to hilarity ensuing.
A Haunted House marks Wayans’ returning to writing horror parodies after the atrociously badScary Movie 2. The result is surprisingly not bad and better than it has any right to be. And, I can say this as someone who, A: other than the first entry, hated the entire Scary Movie franchise. And, B: is generally very picky when it comes to comedies. This one tries to parody the recent found footage horror flick craze by focusing on movies like Paranormal Activity (clearly the main inspiration for this movie), The Devil Inside, and The Last Exorcism. Thankfully this one doesn’t rely on quite as many sight gags as the aforementioned franchise so heavily does. That said, they are definitely present but are handled infinitely better. One of the best examples is the use of the oscillating fan taken from Paranormal Activity 3; it’s used in an uproarious moment that even manages to give us a little bit of welcomed nudity.
While not all the jokes actually work, a good amount of them do. I found myself laughing for most of the film, something I never expected going into it. Not surprising the humor is quite tasteless and over-the-top with homophobia, racist stereotypes, scatology, farting, sex and later rape by the ghost, etc all used sparingly throughout the film. In other words, there is something to offend everyone at some point or another and rightfully earning the movie its “R” rating.
The cast are good in their roles. Wayans is likable, and he has a good chemistry with Atkins. The security/ reality show guys (David Koechner and Dave Sheridan) and the swinging couple (Andrew Daly and the sexy Alanna Ubach) are also quite memorable. But, it’s Cedric the Entertainer who steals the show as the aforementioned formerly incarcerated “priest”. He pops up for the climatic exorcism which is quite hilarious and totally wild.
Still, even at 86 minutes, A Haunted House is a little overlong and doesn’t feature as much supernatural/ horror material as it should to be as enjoyable as possible. In fact, it takes about 25 minutes before anything “haunting” related even occurs in this “haunted house”. There is also nothing new added to the comedy or parody sub-genre. In fact, it’s fairly by the numbers filmmaking for a spoof sort of movie. But, at least it’s mostly entertaining, however flawed.
This is, ultimately, low-brow movie making of the highest, or lowest, order depending on how you look at it. But, it is fun. Will it turn haters around? That’s hard to say. As I already mentioned, I went into this dreading it and thinking I would hate it. Then, I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it is. If you keep expectations low and possibly go in with an open mind, you too may end up getting a kick out of it. As well as some good belly laughs. A Haunted House also serves as definitive proof that it’s time to put an end to the found footage sub-genre. And, please for the love of God, no sequels to this! Now or ever!