Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A HAUNTED HOUSE (Review)

A HAUNTED HOUSE (2013)

review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by Michael Tiddes

Starring Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Cedric the Entertainer, David Koechner, Nick Swardson
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In 2000, I saw Scary Movie in the theatre and thought it was the most hilarious thing I'd ever seen. I laughed so hard tears were streaming down my face. I was almost and quite literally rolling in the aisles. 

I was 17. 

Until I sat down to review A Haunted House, which releases on DVD and Blu-ray today, I hadn't seen a Wayans horror spoof since Scary Movie 2. I wasn't sure what to expect after all this time. Is this stuff still funny? Comedy, like horror, is subjective, but I can confidently say that movies like A Haunted House aren't the movies for me anymore. I've apparently outgrown that point in my life where a scene with a ghost smoking weed would make me pee my pants laughing.

Fun Fact: The script for A Haunted House was dictated letter-by-letter through a Witch Board
As a spoof of the Paranormal Activity movies, with some references to recent possession horror films such as The Devil Inside and POV movies like Quarantine, A Haunted House is a lazy POV footage film documenting how Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) learn that they are being haunted by a demon. When Kisha becomes possessed, Malcolm turns to a priest (Cedric the Entertainer), a psychic (Nick Swardson), and a team of ghost-busters (including Anchorman's David Koechner). Playing out like a series of half-baked sketches, A Haunted House is a tired and unambitious comedy made even more frustrating by the fact that everyone in it has the potential to be so much better.

Essence Atkins and Marlon Wayans during a private moment 
Some bad movies are as good as they're ever going to get. Others, like A Haunted House, tease you with glimpses of the better movie they could have been. Despite his apparent interest in making low-brow concept comedies like White Chicks and LiTTLEMAN, Marlon Wayans can actually play a very charming, funny, and likable guy. He's not a bad actor. For example, when A Haunted House opens, Wayans's character is preparing for his girlfriend to move in with him. The seemingly improvised banter between them is actually quite funny and cute. They're two lovers gently ribbing each other as couples do. Wayans's off the cuff comments are sometimes surprisingly inspired. It's not long, however, before we get a incredibly contrived and telegraphed scene where his girlfriend accidentally runs over his dog. From there on in, we know that it's going to be that kind of comedy: where dumb shit happens as often and as frequently as possible in order to try and force an awkward laugh out of the audience. A Haunted House is shooting for that audience that still finds gay jokes and butt sex the cutting edge of comedy. But for this reviewer, A Haunted House gets really old really fast.

Everyone's a critic. Even the ghost wanted to get Wayans off screen.
I will give A Haunted House some credit. Unlike what the Scary Movie franchise became -- a loose assembly of parodied bits from other movies in rapid succession -- at least A Haunted House tries to tell a coherent story with a character arc. And when they're not hamming it up for the lowest common denominator, I can almost see Wayans and Atkins as very likable as a domestic couple in a different movie. The less said the better about Swardson's cringe-worthy performance as a gay psychic and Cedric the Entertainer phoning it in as the priest. At the end of the day, A Haunted House doesn't even manage to be offensively bad. It's simply lazy and incredibly boring.

A Haunted House certainly didn't appeal to me. I'd like to think that even my 17-year-old self would know better and be able to recognize that A Haunted House does nothing that funny or interesting with its premise. But there's some young kid out there this movie is going to entertain. If the thought of watching Marlon Wayans simulate sex with a stuffed animal is already making you giggle, then A Haunted House is right up your alley.

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