Ashvegas movie review: A Haunted House


My reaction upon learning of its $18.8 million opening weekend gross.
(Open Road Films)

Review by The Isolated Moviegoer:

Though it may seem trivial today, not so long ago the Wayans brothers were on top of the movie parody world.  Led by Shawn and Marlon with the steady hand of Keenan Ivory behind the camera, the smart, laugh-a-minute first two chapters of the Scary Movie franchise had the talented family riding high.  The subsequent decade, however, has proven less kind, as the critically-maligned Little Man, White Chicks, and Dance Flick have lowered the clan’s stock with each new venture.

“W-A-S-T-E O-F M-O-N-E-Y.”
(Open Road Films)

Now from the mind of Marlon comes A Haunted House, a punchless attempt at horror spoof that casts serious doubt on the extent of his involvement in the the Wayans’ better days.  Directed by Michael Tiddes and co-written by Rick Alvarez, both crew members on several recent Wayans projects, the film is an amateurish stab at comedic relevancy, full of fart jokes and offensive stereotyping that wouldn’t have made it to the idea pad in the brothers’ prime.

Drawing inspiration from the parody-ripe found-footage genre, the film centers on the mysterious occurrences that begin after Kisha (Essence Atkins) moves in with Malcolm (Marlon).  To capture evidence of these supernatural happenings, the couple set up a plethora of cameras throughout the house as prescribed by the Paranormal Activity films.  As seen through this video documentation, the malevolent spirit causes the pair consistent duress, but A Haunted House inadvertently suggests that the demon’s greatest power is rendering anyone who enters the home incapable of being funny.

scary is an understatement.
(Open Road Films)

When Kisha and Malcolm aren’t sitting around talking nonsense and generally being boring, they play host to a revolving door of guests who fail miserably at eliciting laughs.  In the process, the writers and cast prove consistently tasteless in their comedy, none greater than in handling of jokes at the expense of minorities.  The lisping, groping gay psychic Chip (Nick Swardson) is an unfortunate relic from a less-enlightened age, as are the ignorant gangsters led by Malcolm’s cousin Ray-Ray (Affion Crockett), whose tough guy rants paint a caricature so dreadful that an NAACP task force is crafting their censure this very second.

Faring even worse is Malcolm’s Hispanic housekeeper Rosa (Marlene Forte), a mishmash of clichés who at one point is pleasured by a countryman groundskeeper, wielding a leaf blower as his accessory of choice.  Add in some flat, drawn out sexual humor from swinging friends (Alana Ubach and Dave Sheridan) and embarrassing turns by comedians (namely J.B. Smoove, Cedric the Entertainer, and David Koechner) that question if they were ever truly funny, and the extent of Marlon’s cluelessness reaches train-wreck status.

At least Anchorman 2 is on the way.
(Open Road Films)

Just as baffling is A Haunted House’s self-imposed parody restrictions.  By limiting itself to the first three Paranormal Activity films and The Devil Inside with a dash of The Exorcist, the film sets its targets unnecessarily low, and despite the ample satire to which these found-footage staples open themselves, Marlon & Co. are too inept to seize the opportunity.  For a performer who showed surprising dramatic depth in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream and consistently stole scenes in the first two Scary Movies, this particular Wayans’ current grasp of film is beyond unfortunate.  The extent to which he’s lost focus is beyond embarrassing and his latest effort is so thoroughly awful that recovery seems unlikely.  If there’s a worse film in 2013, it will be a sad accomplishment indeed.

Grade: F

Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and some drug use.

A Haunted House is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.

For more film reviews, visit The Isolated Moviegoer.

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The Week in Film: Grimm Remix edition January 24, 2013 - 6:57 pm

[…] between now and the February 24th Oscar telecast.  By contrast, the only thing impressive about A Haunted House is that it will no longer plague our lovely […]

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