Published Jan 24, 2013While it's not a formal entry into the lowbrow Wayans family spoof-a-thon franchise, this Marlon-penned send-up of Paranormal Activity beats Scary Movie 5 (due later this year, suspiciously Wayans-free) to the ham-fisted punch line.
A Haunted House is certainly a less celebrity-studded affair than those "topical" horror movie farces, but it ticks all the other requisite bawdy boxes and even has a bit of a message (however juvenile) to boot. Fart jokes? Check. Racial stereotype gags? Check. Cheap sex jokes? Check. Homophobic quips? Check. Ghost rape? Double check. Beneath all this, however, is a smattering of warty truths about adapting to domestic bliss.
Using the ripe-for-parody found-footage conceit, Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) decides to document his new life with girlfriend Kisha (a surprisingly versatile Essence Atkins), starting with the day she moves into his posh pad. The typical concerns about the death of romance in a relationship once the wooing stops are addressed, while annoying habits (like hoarding), night farts and fading sexual passion are treated with a sense of faux-supernatural menace.
As is the typical practice of these types of movies, tropes, like the creepy Mexican maid, and many specific scenes, such as Paranormal Activity 3's rotating fan-cam, are rolled out and given a cinematic titty-twister (one time quite literally) to provoke shock from the familiar.
Once the inevitable signs of haunting begin to occur, Wayans and director Michael Tiddes milk some decent chuckles out of poking fun at the unlikely curiosity displayed by people facing spooky situations. For example, the moment shit hits the fan, Malcolm books it — no questions asked — only returning when he realizes he doesn't have a hope in hell of selling his home in the current real estate market.
It doesn't get much cleverer than that, with most of the film's modest (but still wearying) runtime taken up by a procession of low-rent guests always game for lowest-common-denominator humour, including David Koechner, Andrew Daly, Nick Swardson and Cedric the Entertainer.
If April seems too far away for your next dose of schlock, A Haunted House is a safer bet anyway, but the film's biggest problem is that Paranormal Activity 4 was actually funnier, without resorting to parody. (VVS)