A shameless effort to exploit on the Scary Movie franchise while sending up the found footage genre, A Haunted House regularly lands with an unpleasant clunk. The vast majority of the purported jokes come from square observational humour, either of the “black people are different from white people” variety or the “men are different from women” variety.
A Haunted House was scribbled in crayon on a cocktail napkin by Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez. The pair frequently attempts to offend, but the quips are leaden. Some decent ideas, like a character’s masturbation with a crucifix, are diluted by other scenes that run too long or play too safe. There’s room for vulgarity, but this movie’s dullness and caution leaves it out of reach.
Wayans stars as Malcolm, a whiney and self-absorbed idiot awaiting his girlfriend Kisha’s (Essence Atkins) arrival. She’s moving in with him, but he’s worried that she’s not going to want to give him the proper carnal contact. Perhaps more problematically, she won’t cook. A woman who won’t cook? To the gallows!
Malcolm’s trouble with Kisha reaches a fever pitch when strange incidents start happening. Thanks to the cameras he’s placed everywhere, Malcolm and Kisha catch what could be paranormal activity. When it’s revealed that Kisha sold her soul for shoes (just like a woman, duh), Malcolm has to figure out how to deal.
Of course, a film like A Haunted House has no business being taken seriously. Those searching for cultured entertainment would have to be out of their minds for visiting this one and those not expecting crude, infantile humour would be best served having their perspective realigned. This type of film exclusively and flagrantly targets disciples of the very, very stupid.
So in light of that, how does this 2013 comedy do? Like the Republican Party, A Haunted House fails to commit and often regurgitates. One-note characters are expected, as are anodyne “jokes” about Hispanic maids and the magnitude of black penises. But the movie’s failure to do anything with the elements is its foremost failing.
The Wayans/Alvarez screenplay has space for a number of comedic character actors, including Cedric the Entertainer, Nick Swardson and David Koechner. They fill expected roles and bring some allure to the proceedings, but the characters are so superficial and tedious that their presence is completely pointless.
The real shame is the character of Kisha. She is the butt of almost all the jokes in A Haunted House. Wayans’ Malcolm treats her with such contempt that it’s hard to watch, transforming the potential for humour into an odd-tasting volley of outdated gags and abuse.
We end up with Kisha scolded for such unladylike conduct as farting, going to the bathroom, not cooking, not having sex with Malcolm, allegedly giving Malcolm herpes, and being “raped” by a ghost. Malcolm, on the other hand, is flattered to an absurd degree by both male and female characters. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Wayans penned the script.
Most people walking into a movie like this know what to expect: A Haunted House doesn’t do anything to exceed those expectations, choosing to tread as carefully to the mark as possible while offering nothing in terms of character or genuinely edgy comedy for anyone outside the target market. In that respect, it’s a winner. In any other sensible respect, it’s one of the worst of the year.