Directed by: Michael Tiddes
Written by: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez
Featuring: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Marlene Forte, David Koechner, Dave Sheridan, Cedric the Entertainer, Nick Swardson
Several years ago, spoofs absolutely flooded the mainstream market. Every few months, it was Not Another Teen Movie, Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Date Movie, Disaster Movie and, well, you get the point. While few of them had some pretty good moments of isolated genius, for the most part they were throwaway pieces of shit that should be avoided at all costs.
Despite my venomous dislike for the vast majority of these films, I have to admit that the trailers for the new film A Haunted House caught my interest. Despite being written by Marlon Wayans and looking like it employed the same formula as all of the other spoofs, the subject matter focused on the recent influx of found-footage horror films, and many of the jokes in the trailer were cracks that my friends and I had made ourselves. So I strove to keep an open mind and went to see it on opening night.
The film centers on Malcolm (Marlon Wayans), a handsome and successful young man whose long-time girlfriend, Kisha (Essence Atkins), is moving in. On the day of her arrival, Malcolm purchases an HD camcorder to record their life together. What follows is a ridiculously drawn-out sequence in which Kisha runs over Malcolm's dog, insults his Hispanic housekeeper Rosa (Marlene Forte) with racist jokes and fills his house with a lifetime of clutter and useless odds and ends. That night, expecting sex, Malcolm lies in bed in anticipation, unaware that Kisha is putting on acne medication, huge slippers, sweatpants and a filthy sweater to sleep in.
From there, the film follows the formula of Paranormal Activity, but almost every joke falls flat — for example, after the same ominous rumbling that accompanies ghost activity in the Paranormal series, we learn that Kisha has persistent gas throughout the night. As the film goes on, Kisha reveals that the odd happenings may be linked to the fact that she once offered to sell her soul to a demon for a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes. Dismayed at the discovery, Malcolm hires amateur ghosthunters Dan (David Koechner) and Bob (Dave Sheridan) to come check out the house. Kisha has a sexual encounter with the entity, which fulfills her more than sex with Malcolm ever has, so she begins courting the ghost as Malcolm's jealousy grows. An effeminate gay psychic named Chip (Nick Swardson) is brought in to try and get a "read" on the house, but his only prerogative is seducing Malcolm. As a last resort, Malcolm hires an ex-convict-turned-priest, played by Cedric the Entertainer, to try and exorcise the now-possessed Kisha. Kisha is full-on The Devil Inside now, also taking nods from The Last Exorcism and Quarantine, crawling around and hissing one moment, doing crazy back-bends the next. But can Malcolm and his ragtag team of helpers save Kisha before it's too late?
The problems with the film are many, but it mostly boils down to this: A Haunted House sets out to be as offensive and juvenile as possible, and every joke falls flat in its sophomoric humor. In films like Requiem for a Dream, Wayans has proven that he has talent, so I'm baffled by how fucking awful he is in his own projects. He's by far the best actor in the film, but the script is atrocious and recycles many of the same jokes and setups as the Scary Movie franchise he and his brother wrote. Rather than making clever references and actually taking the piss out of the found-footage films it's spoofing, the movie lapses into a never-ending series of dick, fart, gay and body-fluid jokes, crossing the line into infantile humor early in the film and never redeeming itself. The characters are portrayed as complete caricatures from the get-go, except for Kisha and Malcolm, who in many scenes are actually believable and likable; this creates a weird situation that makes the supporting cast look much more buffoonish cartoons. And the heavy-handed obnoxiousness of the film makes it feel much longer than it actually is.
I can honestly say that I didn't so much as smirk during the entire film; however, the middle-school-aged kids in the audience were laughing uproariously, so maybe their affinity for anal sex jokes will help A Haunted House recoup its budget.