A Haunted House (2013) / Comedy-Horror

MPAA rated: R for crude and sexual content, nudity, strong language and some drug use
Length: 86 min.

Cast: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Nick Swardson, Cedric the Entertainer, David Koechner, Andrew Daly, Marlene Forte, Alanna Ubach, Affion Crockett, Dave Sheridan, J.B. Smoove
Director: Michael Tiddes
Screenplay: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez
Review published January 21, 2013

A Haunted House 2013Yet another Wayans horror parody, this time not using the Scary Movie moniker, though it rightfully could be placed among that series without any changes.  Without assistance by any of his brothers this time, Marlon Wayans (GI Joe, Norbit) co-writes and stars as Malcolm, who decides to document the happy times that exist between him and his girlfriend Kisha (Atkins, Deliver Us from Eva) now that she has decided to move in with him in his new suburban Los Angeles home.  However, what the camera actually records is some strange behavior going on in the house, causing the couple to suspect that they aren't alone.  Utilizing additional surveillance equipment from the local ghost-hunting company, Ghost Guys, they seek to find an answer to all of the supernatural events that are causing them to drift apart.

The bulk of A Haunted House is a straight-up parody of the first Paranormal Activity film, so if you haven't caught that flick yet, it is highly recommended you do so prior to catching this send-up.  There are other spoofs, including the other PA films, The Devil Inside, The Blair Witch Project, The Last Exorcist, and the TV show, "Ghost Hunters".  Even the videogame 'Left 4 Dead' gets a gag.  Essentially, it is a found-footage premise in which we see (or don't see) the ghost of the house scaring the bejesus out of its inhabitants, including sexually using and abusing them, and then taking possession.   In addition to the surveillance experts, there is a gay psychic called in named Chip (Swardson, You Don't Mess with the Zohan), and an ex-con priest-in-training, Father Williams (Cedric, Cadillac Records). 

The best thing that I can say for A Haunted House is that it isn't as bad as most of the previous Wayans efforts, and does feature about a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, many of them so rude or crude that you might even feel a little bit guilty for finding such amusement in the most juvenile of gags.  As this is a Wayans-penned flick, you know you're going to get fart, poop, pee, sex, masturbation, and dick jokes galore.  If you're of a mentality that finds envelope-pushing levels of crass behavior the height of amusement, you'll probably get more mileage out of this sophomoric effort.

However, if you were to squeeze down this sub-90-minite film to just the funny bits, as well as the scenes that are necessary to retain a sense of a storyline, there might only be about 15 minutes of worthy material worth keeping.  Gags run on far too long, such as a couple of swingers who keeps trying to finagle a tryst out of Malcolm for Kisha, as well as frequent references to his wife wanting a 'Mandingo party', in which she engages in sex with multiple Black men. 

Most of the racial jokes are old and recycled, such as Malcolm referring to the fact that White folks are the ones to go investigate when they hear a scary noise behind a closed door, while Black people run -- which is just one of several classic comedy bits that the Wayans have been lifting for many movies now, often from Richard Pryor, and this time from Eddie Murphy.  The gay jokes are almost as bad, as Chip the psychic's only shtick is to be gay and cajole Malcolm into going to his side.  It's not funny the first time, the second, or the 20th time.  However, there is one 'gay rape' gag involving the ghost that would probably constitute a spoiler if I were to reveal that many in the audience will find funny, despite its inherent tastelessness.

A Haunted House does feature some amusing performances by the leads, and it isn't without laughs, but the energy and ideas run out before even an hour is up, followed by nearly a half-hour of tired Exorcist lampooning that has been already done to death in other sources over the last 40 years.  If you're feeling especially giddy, its silliness quotient may prove infectious, but too many lulls and gags that fizzle add up to a less-than-satisfying experience for anyone not a devout Wayans brothers fan.

-- Followed by A Haunted House 2 (2014)
Qwipster's rating:  

©2013 Vince Leo