By: Hawk Ripjaw –
Thank God we’re starting to run out of holidays for Madea to shit on.
It’s Halloween, and everyone’s getting into the spirit–especially 17-year-old Tiffany (Diamond White), who has just accepted an invitation from the local fraternity to attend one of their “legendary” Halloween parties, which are made as such by a pair of breakdancers. I’ve been to parties with breakdancers, and let me tell you, “legendary” is not the word I’d use to describe them, unless you count a girl getting accidentally roundhoused and looking like she got mugged for the next week. Anyway, Tiffany’s dad, Brian (Tyler Perry), isn’t having it, so he calls on his aunt Madea (Tyler Perry), his dad Joe (Tyler Perry), and their friends Bam (Cassi Davis) and Hattie (Patrice Lovely) to stay in the house and make sure Tiffany doesn’t leave. Tiffany, for her part, does not play that shit, so she immediately hatches a plan to scare the old folks into going to bed early so she can sneak out. No, this is not a movie about Madea fighting off ghouls or zombies, which probably would have been a lot funnier.
It’s not as bad as A Madea Christmas, a movie which was such a rancid, horrible punishment of a movie that I’m actually ashamed of the angry thoughts that went through my head after I saw it.
There is exactly one genuinely funny joke in the movie, and it involves someone saying outright that Madea is “a dude.” There are exactly two other chuckles to be had. You also kind of have to hand it to Perry: as bad as these movies are, the man is a gifted character actor, and while you can tell Madea and Tom are played by him, he plays them with an energy that comes from a classically trained stage actor. Davis and Lovely also bring a nice energy, pulling morsels of fun out of DOA writing.
The joke about Madea being played by a male is actually pretty funny, and even something I was hoping they’d throw in. Then, as though he’s not sure we got it, Perry continues to insinuate the fact that Madea is played by a male, including repeated references to her possibly fake breasts and at least two instances in which Madea suddenly speaks a short line in Perry’s regular baritone. There are a number of jokes here that just get recycled over and over again. Whether it’s Bam advertising her medical marijuana card (which hasn’t been fresh, ever), the frat brothers all touting whatever “hilarious” character trait defines them, or Madea talking about her past as a stripper, Halloween refuses to let jokes go after one run, and comes back around over and over again for another swing at a horse that’s dead, decayed, and maggot-infested.
What these Madea movies consider comedy continues to almost exclusively involve Madea either yelling at someone, talking about how she used to be a sex fiend, or just being a total prick in general. Whether she’s discussing in detail her “Ho-oh-1k” (a 401k for “hoes that made their money illegally”) or slamming her breasts together like soccer balls whist outlining her past life as a stripper, or defending her decision to “love tap” Brian so badly as a child he was on life support (including an extended conversation about Joe throwing Brian off a roof so that a pencil in his pocket pierced his testicle “like a Tootsie Pop”), nearly everything that tumbles out of Madea’s mouth is either kinda gross, or just really mean-spirited. While I’ll be first in line to watch a comedy that has a nice streak of hatred running through it, it just doesn’t blend well with Perry’s “family values” brand of storytelling.
Perry continues his habit of making his Madea movies look extremely cheap. He’s known for being extremely efficient with time and money, producing an incredible volume of work in half the time it would take someone else to do but at a cost. Halloween has a rushed and haphazard aesthetic, which makes sense given that the film was reportedly shot in just 6 days. It’s got the look of a cheap made-for-TV sitcom special, and the feel that everyone stopped and moved on after the first take. It’s just a step above amateurish, which is inexcusable for a filmmaker of Perry’s pedigree.
While it’s admirable that Halloween pumps the brakes on trying to cram familial drama elements into almost every scene, it still tries to shoehorn some of it into the very end, in classic Tyler Perry style. By doubling down on the downright cartoonish comedy, the sudden intrusion of family values feels out of place, not to mention cheap and stupid. It turns out that Tiffany is angry at her dad because he lets people walk over him and never sticks up for himself, which sort of explains why Brian is such a loser of a character. But with Brian being in only a handful of scenes, it’s hard to really care about his arc, and that climax is a weird detour from the goof-off antics that come before it.
The story goes that in the Chris Rock movie Top Five, he had an idea for a Madea Halloween movie that was popular worldwide. In real life, Lionsgate loved the idea and their eyes did that cartoon dollar sign thing and they asked Tyler Perry to do the real thing. We already know that the filmmaking in these movies is rudimentary at best and lazy at worst, so that wasn’t anything new with Halloween. The fact that this was born from a movie about pop culture probably partially explains the parade of Instagram and Vine celebrities that show up in this movie. I was first suspicious when Tiffany’s friend Leah’s “Halloween costume” was basically a leotard, and more so when there is an extended sequence of her twerking. It turns out she’s played by Lexy Panterra, who is apparently known for twerking on Instagram. There’s also an appearance by someone named Tyga, and further research revealed that several of the frat boys are also played by Internet celebrities. They all feel deeply out of place.
It’s not a cinematic hate crime like A Madea Christmas was, but it’s still really bad. Acting (by any non-crazy-old-person characters), editing, directing, and writing all suffer immensely.
By the hour mark, I had developed a curious case of Stockholm Syndrome for the movie, actively hating what I was watching but still being mildly engaged. I wasn’t checking my watch. I wouldn’t be checking it if I had been wearing one. I didn’t like it, but I was watching it–blankly, unfeeling, mildly interested. It’s like every Madea movie is a Horcrux that forcibly takes a piece of my soul.
Or, as Oberst von Berauscht so perfectly put it: “The scariest thing about Hell isn’t getting there; it’s getting used to being there.”
I’ll see you in your next movie, Madea.
Boo! A Madea Halloween (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Madea’s breasts are mentioned or touched.
Take a Drink: whenever a character repeats a line.
Do a Shot: whenever Madea punches someone in the face.
Do a Shot: each time Madea talks about her past life as a stripper.
Take a Drink: for every clown.