SYNOPSIS: Malcolm and Kisha move into their dream home, but soon learn a demon also resides there. When Kisha becomes possessed, Malcolm - determined to keep his sex life on track - turns to a priest, a psychic, and a team of ghost-busters for help.
REVIEW: Crawl Space short film director director Michael Tiddes takes on the found footage spoof comedy game with a script written by Scary Movie (the original and three of its sequels) scribe and actor Marlon Wayans and relatively new screenwriter Rick Alvarez. With Scary Movie 5 coming out soon and Marlon Wayan's jump to a possible new horror spoof franchise, will A Haunted House have what it takes to give us all the silliness we expect?
Malcolm (Marlon Wayans, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) buys a camera in anticipation of his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins, Dance Flick) moving in with him. As soon as the last moving box is dropped on the floor in the living room, strange and unexplained events start happening in the house. Housekeeper Rosa (Marlene Forte, Star Trek) and Kisha do not hit it off at all, Kisha blaming her for mysteriously dropped keys. But with Malcolm's camcorder and a security system installed by Dan the Security Man (David Koechner, Hit and Run) and his half-wit brother Bob (Dave Sheridan, Horrible Bosses), the evidence of a supernatural entity is irrefutable. Malcolm and Kisha bring in professional help, ranging from a recommended Chip the Psychic (Nick Swardson, That's My Boy), to catholic convict Father Williams (Cedric the Entertainer, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted), to Dan and Bob doubling as ghost hunters.
A Haunted House is steep in the tradition of the all-time greatest horror spoofs. Not really - are any spoof movies all that great? - but Wayans and Alvarez take enough elements from the Paranormal Activity movies, The Last Exorcism, and The Devil Inside to create a fairly decent spoof effort. We all knew that it was only a matter of time before someone was going to take the post-The Blair Witch Project found footage horror genre on a comedic joy-ride.
My friends and I were making up Paranormal Activity jokes after the first film premiered, joking that the unseen demon flushed the toilet and a stream of toilet paper scooted unaided across the hallway floor. Luckily, Wayans and company managed to get their version to market before the other found footage spoof Scary Movie 5.
Wayans and Alvarez write up some pretty funny material for A Haunted House, mostly geared toward sexual and off-color situations. An intimate moment between Wayans' Malcolm and a stuffed teddy bear, and a first night case of bedroom gas, results in tears of laughter. The writing team takes advantage of the 'found footage' concept and the clever ways that the Paranormal Activity franchise ramped up the ways to tell the story, using the ole oscillating fan trick to find out what the housekeeper Rosa is up to while the home owners are out of the house.
The story is complete with psychics, strange neighbors, and a preacher ready to perform a half-ass exorcism against an agile possessed girl. A Haunted House does bring more to the table as well, using Wayans' sensibilities and comedic edge to the film.
What does this film have that the Paranormal Activity franchise didn't? Thugs and abusive parents! Malcolm's friend Ray-Ray (Affion Crockett, This Means War), his crew, and their pistols don't seem to be a match for whatever is possessing Malcolm and Kisha's house. When Malcolm starts riffling through a box of old VHS tapes from Kisha's childhood, he discovers just how dysfunctional and attractive to a demon Kisha really is - Kisha's step dad (J.B Smoove, Date Night) and mom (Robin Thede, Clunkers) immortalizing why they will never be parents of the year! Swardson's Chip the Psychic and Cedric the Entertainer's Father Doug provide the rest of the laughs.
Coming in at a brisk 86 minutes, A Haunted House still has a few slow sequences. As with any spoof movie, there a just as many comedic misses as there are hits. Wayans knows his spoof-craft, experienced in the genre, but not every moment is comedy gold. But there are plenty of chuckles throughout, enough to cover the price of admission. It ain't the best story, but it is funny.
A Haunted House is funny. It is funny in the way that most spoof movies are. Wayans brings plenty of experience in his writing and acting — and it shows. If you are a fan of Wayans and a fan of the genre, give in to the activity! After Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook, of course!
★ ★ ★ out of 5 | Rental
Rated: R Crude and sexual content, language and some drug use.
Release Date: January 11, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 26 minutes
Director: Michael Tiddes
Writers: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez
Cast: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Marlene Forte, Dave Sheridan, Nick Swardson, Cedric the Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Dave Koechner, Affion Crockett