Malcom (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) are a young, happy couple who have just purchased and moved into a beautiful house. This new chapter of their relationship seems to be going pretty great, for about a minute, until strange and spooky things begin happening at night. Turns out, someone else moved in too. SPOILER ALERT: It’s a demon!
They install a surveillance system to monitor the supernatural occurrences and review the grainy footage in an attempt to rid their home of the unwanted, and often freaky houseguest.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. That’s the plot of Paranormal Activity, all of its sequels and countless other copycat “found footage” horror movies that have been the craze for years now. So it was only a matter of time (the correct time being about five years ago) until the genre received the parody treatment. A Haunted House is the first of two spoofs out this year. The second, Scary Movie 5, basically the same exact movie, will grace theaters in April.
Scary Movie 5 is the one with this.
I know, it seems a bit confusing that this one is not the official Scary Movie installment since it’s written and stars Marlon Wayans, one of the creators of the franchise. Seeing that he was partially responsible for the first two films in the series (aka: the funny ones), I was hopeful for A Haunted House possibly being a return to form.
Wayans has no shame and will go as far as censors will allow for a laugh, which is pretty damn important in this type of movie. The rest of the cast is game as well, particularly Essence Atkins, who has some great moments. She brings to mind Anna Faris in the Scary Movie films, making things funny that really aren’t that funny with her comedic skills and charisma. I hope if one good thing comes out of this, it’s that she gets the chance to shine in an actual good comedy (though we’re still waiting on that for Anna Faris, sooo…)
The early scenes of the two leads moving in together are fun, as Wayans and Atkins have a natural chemistry and play off each other well. They’re likable enough for the audience to want to root for them, which is essential in horror movies, even parodies of horror movies.
There are a few pretty good laughs throughout the movie too, usually found in the setups to the main gags (which don’t fare as well). I also appreciated that the plot was consistent and didn’t constantly veer off into ridiculous tangents there only to jam in as many lame and dated pop culture references as possible (something that’s plagued the ____ Movies for the better half of the last decade).
It’s funny because it’s there.
So based on what you’ve read so far, you’re probably thinking, “Hmm, doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe even worth a rental in a few months,” right? Wrong. It’s bad. Any hope of A Haunted House resuscitating the spoof genre is shattered about ten minutes in when we are treated to an extended flatulence gag. And by extended I’m talking a good five minutes, which is an eternity in fart joke land. It goes on and on and on and kills any small bit of humor it had any chance of retaining. Much like every other similar sequence in this movie containing more of the same lowest common denominator stuff.
What’s frustrating is, there are some small glimpses of actual inspired funny satire, but it’s buried under the same old potty humor as if Wayans and co-writer Rick Alvarez don’t trust the audience to get a joke that doesn’t involve bodily functions, stereotypes, or poop (the actual product as opposed to the bodily function, don’t want you to think I’m being redundant). Those few, little promising moments prove that they are capable of better,I sI but instead they intentionally dumb it down and I feel a little insulted as a viewer.
spelling errors > poop
Speaking of people feeling insulted by this movie: gay people. The character of Chip (Nick Swardson, yeah, Bucky Larson himself), the psychic the couple calls in to assist in ridding their entity, is nothing but an excuse for cringe-worthy homophobic “humor” that comes off as just plain mean. Chip takes an immediate liking to Malcom and is very vocal and physical about his attraction to the point of groping him and stripping down naked.
You know, things all homosexual men do to unwilling straight men because they just can’t help their gayness.
But Chip’s not even the worst instance of this. There’s an actual rape scene involving Malcom being violated (referred to as being “altar-boyed”) by the ghost itself. Just scenes before, Kisha experiences a similar episode, but in that case, it’s the best sex of her life.
So: Hetero rape- Surprisingly okay. Gay rape- Awful because it’s NAASSTTY.
Seriously. It’s 2013. Can we stop shit like this? Please?
Not to be overshadowed by the gay jokes, there’s plenty of material built around racial stereotypes, though at least in this case, the movie is an equal opportunity offender. White, black, Hispanic- all covered, sometimes funny, most of the time not. In fact, the only thing missing was a funny-talking Asian (I have a feeling this will be covered in Scary Movie 5, probably involving Gangnam Style. Remember I said this.)
The climax entails a priest being called in to exorcise a possessed Kisha (again, props to Essence Atkins, she’s awesome). The priest is played by Cedric the Entertainer, usually very reliable for a good belly laugh. Not so much in this case, except for a pretty funny bit about Samuel L. Jackson that I suspect was adlibbed.
But once the actual exorcism begins, it’s annoyingly drawn out, stupid, and makes no sense (if the viewer is actually attempting to make sense out of the movie at this point). It basically consists of a group of men beating the hell (literally) out of a woman, which just doesn’t seem right to watch, even if there is a demon inside her. There’s even a follow-up “Haha, look at your bruises..sorry about that. I love you baby” from Malcom to the healed Kisha. Ugh.
So to recap, we have: sex jokes, fart jokes, poop (the verb) jokes, poop (the noun) jokes, gay jokes, rape jokes, race jokes, woman beating jokes, am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah, add in mentally-handicapped jokes (remember Doofy from Scary Movie? Dave Sheridan reprises the character, but his name is Bob here because once again, THIS ISN’T SCARY MOVIE, REALLY). There is a way to do offensive humor right, but you won’t find much of it in A Haunted House. Instead, it’s lazy, stupid, and unfunny. You can probably correctly guess nearly every gag without actually seeing the movie, because, you actually have seen it before. It’s too bad, because at times it seems possible that a decent movie was buried deep, deep down under all the excrement, but there’s just too much shit to dig through to find it. Grab a camera and make your own “found footage” parody, it’s bound to be better than this one.
Take a Drink: at every fart gag.
Take a Drink: every time there is a mention of poop.
Take a Drink: every time Kisha yells “MALCOM!”
Take a Drink: at every naked ass.
Take a Drink: every time a door slams.
Take a Drink: every time you correctly recall which movie is being spoofed.
Do a Shot: every time someone says “Mandingo Party.”