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Review: A Haunted House

Jan. 11, 2013by: Eric Walkuski

PLOT: Two people move into a haunted house and proceed to act like jackasses while the filmmakers embarrass themselves.

REVIEW: Where do jokes go to die? A HAUNTED HOUSE. No, that wasn't my own botched attempt at a joke, it's just a fact; this parody movie wouldn't know a clever joke, pun or sight gag if it happened upon one by accident. The brainchild of Marlon Wayans, who has tried his hand at goofing on horror movies before with the first two SCARY MOVIE flicks, this cheap and dull product is like a consistent assault on your patience and, eventually, your will to live.

A HAUNTED HOUSE's supposed goal is to thoroughly skewer the found footage genre, mostly the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films, with a side of BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and THE DEVIL INSIDE. (That's the extent of Wayans and his co-writer Rick Alvarez's found footage knowledge.) However, as the movie is mainly a series of fart, genital, race and gender jokes, it's obvious that it doesn't have anything subversive or intelligent to say about the genre itself - it's just inserting a lot of crude idiocy and shakily filming it on a set that looks a lot like the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY location.

Does the story matter? We're introduced to Malcolm (Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins), who are in the process of moving into a new home, their first time living together. Malcolm begins to film everything they do, like Kisha going to the bathroom - ew, gross, huh?! - or himself preparing to make a sex tape with her (he practices with stuffed animals for what feels like a full two minutes). Before long, strange noises and occurrences begin to disrupt the harmony, and Kisha almost immediately comes to the conclusion that their new abode is haunted. The only scene I laughed at, just a little, was the one when, after it's obvious an entity resides in the home, Malcolm immediately packs up a van and drives off in a frenzy. At the very least, it calls to mind a famous Eddie Murphy routine about black people in haunted houses.

Knowing he can't sell the home in the current market, Malcolm has to suck it up, as he and Kisha continue to experience supernatural events, like Kisha being sexually abused by the ghost in the middle of the night, or being thrown about the house like a ping pong ball. In one scene, they get stoned with the apparition; Wayans probably doesn't remember that both SCARY MOVIE 1 and 2 had "getting high with the villain" scenes, or he just doesn't mind repeating himself. Malcolm attempts to find help in various forms: a borderline racist security expert (David Koechner), a gay psychic (Nick Swardson) and a profane priest (Cedric the Entertainer).

Not one of these characters is the least bit amusing, which comes as a depressing revelation since only they can save the movie from continuing its downward slide into a laugh-free hell. Alas, the performers have no choice but to sink to the level of the script's obnoxious stereotypes, the very worst of which is Swardson's gay psychic, who does nothing but cling to Malcolm and make grotesque innuendo. (A favorite moment of the film's is to have the lights go out and, when they come back on, show Swardson wrapped around Wayans' leg or waist in a provocative manner. This literally happens at least three times.)

There is, of course, nothing wrong with crudity or shamelessness in comedy; sometimes, the more lowbrow, the better. But Wayans and director Michael Tiddes seem to assume that just having someone fart or get punched or have a pan fall on their head is funny, independent of what came before it or what follows. And hey, maybe that works for a certain segment of the public; like say, the under-13 crowd. For me, I appreciate things like pacing and context with my comedy, and the makers of A HAUNTED HOUSE just don't get it. You would like for the movie - for any movie - to strive for something unique, and here we have a literal dead zone of not only humor, but ideas. All you need to know about A HAUNTED HOUSE can be found in its title: there's nothing creative or interesting about it. Most likely, it's the first title to have popped into Wayans' and company's heads. On the whole, the movie is even more boring and uninspired.

I'll give the movie 2 out of 10, mainly because it's not easy to make a movie, no matter how poor the final result. But mark my words, A HAUNTED HOUSE has already staked a claim on my Worst Movies of 2013 list, and I'm sure I won't be alone.

Extra Tidbit: What did you think of A Haunted House?

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