It’s a momentous day in the life of Malcolm Johnson (Marlon Wayans). He’s got a new video camera and his lovely girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) is moving in to live with him after two years of dating. Big deal, right? Well, not only does she bring a truckload of her stuff with her, she also brings something else: a ghost. All of a sudden, Malcolm’s awesome house becomes… a haunted house. Hence the title!
At first, the ghost is only a nuisance, rattling pots and slamming doors, but as things get worse, Malcolm turns to a rag-tag crew of stereotypes, from a pseudo-priest (Cedric The Entertainer), a gay psychic (Nick Swardson), and a bald-headed security system installer/ghost hunter (David Koechner) to help him get a handle on his possessed girlfriend and the demon invading their house, smoking their weed, and sexually assaulting them. Nothing says laff-riot like anal rape!
Given the title, the crew involved, and the trailer, you know exactly what to expect from A Haunted House. It’s a Paranormal Activity spoof about five years too late. That’s the one advantage the movie has over, say, the later Scary Movie films. Rather than just spoofing everything, A Haunted House sticks to a single genre – found footage horror – and really picks it apart. All the little things about Paranormal Activity are referenced, except for the fact that it’s strange for these people to be recording everything they do. But hey, at least they get to make some unfunny sex tape jokes!
This is very much a Marlon Wayans project, with him serving as producer, co-writer (with Rick Alvarez, who has no writing credits to his name), and star. You can tell that this is the kind of stuff that he thinks is funny, since he’s so responsible for the entire movie, but this is probably one of the least funny comedies I’ve seen in a long time, despite throwing a whole lot of energy at its jokes. I think the only thing I nearly laughed at was David Koechner making a Snakes On A Plane joke, but aside from that? A Haunted House was 86 minutes of jokeless flailing, mugging, racism, stereotypes, and flatulence. After all, there’s nothing funnier than ghost rape.
What’s more, there’s an impression that all concerned think this is really funny stuff. The film pauses for laughter that never comes, and it throws off the pacing, which was already slow. Michael Tiddes, the director, doesn’t have any other movie credits, and only has a pair of television shows to his credit. That said, I don’t think Mel Brooks in his prime could redeem this mess, unless he totally rewrote it. There’s no challenge to a found footage rip-off, because it takes shots the Paranormal Activity movies have already done (the fan-cam) and just steals them. There’s no attempt at cleverness, nothing new brought to the table, just a bunch of stuff from other movies and lame jokes.
I went into A Haunted House suspecting it may have problems, and it’s got an abundance of them. I tried to give the movie a chance, and after it failed to interest me in any way, I listened to the people around me. Nobody laughed. Cell phones rang more often than people chuckled. Whoever the target audience for this film is, I imagine they’re not enjoying it either.