Reviewed by Mike Ferraro
Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) play a couple about to open a new chapter in their relationship when they decide to move in together. Malcolm, of course, decides to turn a camera on and record his new lifestyle with his significant other. However, it is Kisha who seems to feel the presence of something supernatural as soon as she steps foot in the new house.
A Haunted House, written by Rick Alvarez and Marlon Wayans, directed by newcomer Michael Tiddes, makes no attempts to be an original entry in an otherwise dead spoof genre. It’s full of jokes only a failed stand-up comedian could deliver while performing at a lower-end buffet in Vegas.
The film mostly follows the premise of Paranormal Activity series, while also tackling other recent flicks like The Devil Inside and Insidious. As it has been said hundreds of times before, if Airplane started the spoof trend, A Haunted House is a homeless vagrant dropping a load on an already decomposed corpse. The earlier was smart in its attempts to satirize, while the latter thinks only anal sex and fart jokes can earn laughter and respect.
They can’t. Especially after the fourth or fifth time they appear in the film.
This picture runs about 86 long minutes, and most of that length comes from the editors not knowing where to pull the plug on certain gags. For example, there is a scene in which Malcolm prepares himself for first-night-living-together sex by practicing on a couple of stuffed animals. Even if only the shot lasted about 2 minutes, it’s a struggle to keep watching past the 5-second mark.
To say the film is rife with stereotypes would be doing it a kind service; instead, there isn’t a shot throughout its entire run time that doesn’t contain some unoriginal racial or homophobic joke. Like when Kisha calls in her “gangsta” cousins to “pop a certain cap” into their invisible intruder. Perhaps this would be relative, and maybe even humorous to some degree, if that culture were still in the limelight (like maybe back in the early 1990s when Boyz N the Hood or Menace II Society were fresh in our cinematic minds).
This isn’t a picture that is going to earn anything less than an R-rating either. The MPAA note that it contains “crude and sexual content, language, and some drug use” but the real mystery is why the filmmakers went this direction. Because it would be impossible to imagine any adult human being actually finding this film humorous, interesting, or even halfway entertaining.
Perhaps the most intelligent joke of the entire film is when Malcolm defecates on the ashes of Kisha’s father. We can assume that’s just a visual metaphor for what this picture is doing to us while we watch it. Or maybe we are just looking into it too much.
Thankfully, the blu-ray release for A Haunted House only contains one single extra (outside of some previews). “How to Survive a Paranormal Presence” is a misleading title for a brief, commercial-length, making-of featurette that contains some short interviews with the cast. Again, it’s too short to even gain focus and the film is just too bland to even care if it were longer and more in-depth.
It seemed like cinema audiences were safe for a while – the spoof genre felt almost extinct. But 2013 is bringing it back, first with A Haunted House (which has already earned a sequel in production), and then with Scary Movie 5.
The horror, the horror.