Review: A Haunted House / Cert: 15 / Director: Michael Tiddes / Screenplay: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez / Starring: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Marlene Forte / Release Date: June 21st
Happy Endings. The Last Boy Scout. White Chicks. Clearly, the entire Wayans family, all 163 of them, have impeccable taste when it comes to picking fantastic projects to be a part of. This however, is not one of them. A Haunted House has the potential to be the most embarrassing movie of the year, depending on whether or not you saw Scary Movie V. It’d be difficult to say that it’s the worst movie of 2013 with the IMDb plot keywords “anal + rape”, because, well, you’d have a really weird year if that’s all you watched.
The ‘plot’ is driven by what we can assume is a poltergeist (though it’s never referred to as such) terrorizing Marlon Wayans’ character Malcolm and his girlfriend Kisha, after it is revealed that she had made a deal with the devil years before in order to get a pair of red-soled Louboutin shoes. The film begins with an excitable Malcolm preparing to welcome his girlfriend of two years, played by Essence Atkins (who should really only be referred to as ‘the sister from Smart Guy’) into his home. She pulls up onto the driveway, her car packed to the brim with all of her earthly possessions, excited to be finally moving in with her boyfriend, and promptly runs over his dog, Shiloh. Cue the same dead dog gags that felt exhausted even in 1998’s There’s Something About Mary.
Spoiler alert: making a conscious decision to continue watching after those first few minutes results in 85 minutes of fart, sex and weed jokes. The unfunny kind, too. A Haunted House takes most of its cues from the Paranormal Activity series, whilst also parodying The Devil Inside and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, though Marlon himself described it as “Paranormal Activity, but with a black couple”. The trouble is that the film cannot adhere to the conventions of the found footage genre; there’s a lazy opening credits sequence, and even though it’s probably stupid to apply logic or continuity to a film as dumb as this, the timeline is all over the place, the timestamp on the camera disappears/reappears at will, and there are scenes where it’s fairly clear that there’s a separate party operating the camera.
Luckily, the younger of the Wayans bros proves himself to be a gifted enough comedian to make even the most idiotic of jokes land, as you’ll find yourself chuckling a handful of times during a movie that your better judgement knows should be relegated to a Blockbuster bargain bin. There’s a sequence just after Malcolm is finally convinced of the ghost’s presence, where he charges out of the house screaming, packs his things into a moving van and leaves for good, only to return in the morning realising that not even he “can sell the house in this market”, and it’s hilarious. He is able to take something that barely qualifies as a script, one he’s credited with co-“writing”, and inject it with enough personality to override its inherent awfulness; “this is for white people, we don’t investigate, we run, we live”.
Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between. The movie seems to revel in the lowest common denominator of comedy, sprouting jokes both crude and worse, stale. A Haunted House was released in the US at the beginning of the year, taking in $6.7 mil in its opening weekend to beat Gangster Squad to claim the no. 2 spot. So regardless of whether or not you actually see this movie, its sequel A Haunted House 2 is already in development, proving once and for all that all you have to do for a career in Hollywood is beat Ryan Gosling.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10