14th Jun2013

‘A Haunted House’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Marlon Wayans, Marlene Forte, Essence Atkins, David Koechner, Dave Sheridan, Nick Swardson, Alanna Ubach, Cedric the Entertainer, J.B. Smoove | Written by Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez | Directed by Michael Tiddes

A-Haunted-House

This may be hard to believe but it has been thirteen years since the Wayans brothers’ box-office bonanza spoof Scary Movie hit cinemas, creating a new wave of spoof movies. However in the intervening years that franchise, and the genre as a whole, has dwindled into mediocrity. What was once a laugh-riot at the cinema has become a laughing stock on DVD… And even the Wayans knew better than to get involved with the fifth iteration of the franchise they created!

However it seems at least one of the Wayans brothers couldn’t stay away from the genre as Marlon Wayans, sans big brothers Keenan and Shawn, is back on the big screen with A Haunted House. As he did with Scary Movie, which spoofed the then-popular Scream series, Wayans sets his sights on a current popular horror franchise and this time its Paranormal Activity that gets the spoof treatment, with nods to the likes of The Last Exorcism, The Exorcist and even the grand-daddy of the handheld camera genre, The Blair Witch Project.

The film sees overactive man‐child Malcolm (Wayans) take the plunge and lets his girlfriend Keisha (Atkins) move into his house. However he quickly senses they’re no longer alone. Videotaping a series of paranormal events, Malcolm is shocked to discover the love of his life carries more than your average relationship baggage: she’s demonically possessed by an evil spirit. Malcolm enlists the help of a psychic (Swardson), a TV ghost-hunter (Koechner) and a priest/ex‐convict Father Williams (Cedric the Entertainer) to exorcise the demon from his girlfriend before it ruins his relationship, and his sex life.

The Wayans have never been ones to shy away from a gross-out gags and A Haunted House is no exception. The script, from Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez, features some truly outrageous and often totally crass humour, and subject it too controversial to tackle it seems. The film features gags about male anal rape, wife swapping, interracial gang-bangs, drug dealing, homosexuality, domestic violence and even animal cruelty… And frankly, in a world of teen-friendly movies (damn that 12A rating), it’s bloody refreshing to see a comedy that has no qualms about offending everyone! Best of all, some of the jokes surprisingly made me laugh out loud. Yes, some of the jokes are old-hat – especially if you’ve seen a number of other, lesser, PA franchise spoofs but there are some real gems in the hit-and-miss script and the interplay between Swardson and Wayans, as Swardson’s psychic tries to make Wayans’ Malcolm admit he’s had relations with men, is a particular joy to watch; and yes, I know that sounds incredibly low-brow but sometimes comedy just is low-brow, even good comedy (which this is).

Interestingly the first-person “behind-the-camera” perspective, so prevalent in the likes of Paranormal Activity et al., allows Wayans to literally perform to the camera – in an almost stand-up style – which allows him, and his humour, to shine through, even when the jokes around him are falling flat. However not even Marlon Wayans can keep the film going for all of its relatively brief 86 minute running time and by the time the film reaches its conclusion A Haunted House looks like it has run out of steam – yet Wayans throws in one last joke-come-jump scare which actually ends the film on more of a familiar horror note than a comedy one…

Whilst I was shocked and surprised by some of the films gross-out gags and crass humour, what was even more surprising was the fact I actually enjoyed the film! It’s not high art, it’s definitely not for every one, but if you liked the original Scary Movie and its sequel you should get a kick out of A Haunted House.

A Haunted House is released across the UK from Wednesday June 19th.

***½ 3.5/5

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