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Review: A Haunted House

A Haunted House not only panders to, but encourages the same moviemaking impulses it’s supposedly satirizing.

A Haunted House
Photo: Open Road Films

If you’re wondering why A Haunted House exists alongside the upcoming Scary Movie 5 rather than instead of it, you may already have given the subject more thought than Marlon Wayans had hoped. The difference, though far too slight to justify this project’s existence in any just universe, is that Wayans’s Scary Movie franchise lampoons horror movies more generally and A Haunted House is a send-up of the found-footage genre in particular. And just as moviegoers demand an annual exorcism film, so too do they apparently require spoofs of genres that often come close to self-parody all on their own.

The gist of the Michael Tiddes-directed film is that Malcolm (Wayans) and his girlfriend, Kisha (Essence Atkins), move in together only to discover that, you guessed it, their home has suddenly become occupied by an occult presence that the previously happy couple is forced to contend with in typically uproarious fashion. What becomes clear early on is that horror-movie conventions aren’t the source of A Haunted House’s “humor” so much as Wayans’s ability to scream in a high-pitched voice and get disgusted when Kisha farts in her sleep. Nearly every one of these would-be jokes is painfully drawn-out, with several scenes seeming to act as their own blooper reels.

A Haunted House not only panders to, but encourages the same moviemaking impulses it’s supposedly satirizing. Worse yet is its absolute humorlessness (The Cabin in the Woods wasn’t as clever as it thought it was, but at least its intent was to make fun of and even indict the sort of trash that Wayans and Tiddes end up championing.) Notable set pieces include a ghost that enjoys smoking weed, an act of simulated sex with a trio of stuffed animals, and the application of jumper cables to a recently deceased dog. The filmmakers’ lazy approach toward executing said material is merely a matter of making it as crude and infantile as possible.

A Haunted House makes no attempt to actually deconstruct found-footage films, specifically the Paranormal Activity series, its primary reference point; instead, it’s content to merely use this horror subgenre’s trappings as the platform for an interminable series of dick jokes told by one-dimensional characters, several of whom exist for little reason other than to embody done-to-death stereotypes: a Hispanic maid who can secretly speak English, a gay psychic who tries to “convert” Malcolm, and a quartet of gang-bangers. (Malcolm and Kisha aren’t much more nuanced despite appearing in almost every single scene.) Token allusions to The Exorcist and The Blair Witch Project aside, there’s no mistaking this as an excuse to trot out recycled jokes that are only frightening in how lame they are.

Cast: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Nick Swardson, Cedric the Entertainer, David Koechner, Marlene Forte, Dave Sheridan, Alanna Ubach, Andrew Daly, Affion Crockett Director: Michael Tiddes Screenwriter: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez Distributor: Open Road Films Running Time: 86 min Rating: R Year: 2013 Buy: Video

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