Must-Avoid Cinema

The sanitizing cuts requested by the MTRCB make 'A Haunted House' a complete and utter waste of time. Then again, returning the lost scenes probably wouldn’t increase the value of the movie by much.

A Haunted House aims its sights at the Paranormal Activity movies, with a sprinkling of the The Last Exorcism to go along with it. Parody films are opportunistic by nature, its content and appeal drawn from the familiarity of already popular films. This one takes the opportunism further by mostly ignoring the specific content of the movies altogether in favor of a more generic and familiar form of lowbrow comedy. Add to that the sanitizing cuts needed to bring it down to an R-16, and the movie becomes must-avoid cinema.

The movie begins with Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) waiting for his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins), who’s about to move in with him. Things get off on the wrong foot when she accidentally runs over his dog, but the two soon try to settle into domestic bliss. But things only get worse as the couple encounters all sorts of paranormal activity. The two try to find a way to live with their unwanted visitor, getting into plenty of hijinks along the way.

The recent spate of found footage horror movies certainly deserves the ridicule. As genuinely enjoyable as some of them are, they carry with them all sorts of silly conceits that are ripe for parody. But A Haunted House isn’t really very interested in that. Rather than put forward humor that is specific to the genre involved, it mostly settles for a more generic brand of bawdy, lowbrow comedy. For example, rather than make fun of the silliness that usually comes with bringing a psychic into the story, the film simply makes the psychic aggressively gay. Because being gay is funny, apparently.

The rest of the movie follows suit, trying to derive laughs not from the concept, but from more generic sources. There is a long scene that just has Malcolm dealing with Kisha’s farting in bed. There is another long scene that is just the two of them smoking pot in bed. And then there’s the sequence that has characters talking about Snakes on a Plane, even though it has nothing to do with anything that’s going on. There is also a lot of bawdy humor, but much of it seems to have been cut out to make the R-16 rating. The production is pretty bad, the film rarely even bothering to keep up with the found footage conceit. It’s weak stuff all around.

The film’s lack of real laughs is really disappointing considering the comedic talent involved. Marlon Wayans surrounds himself with some of the funniest comedians currently working. Andy Daly and David Koechner tend to be consistently funny in any context. The comedians seem to try their hardest, but the material just isn’t there. They’re often repeating the same jokes over and over with little variation. It’s disappointing all around.

The sanitizing cuts requested by the MTRCB make A Haunted House a complete and utter waste of time. Then again, returning the lost scenes probably wouldn’t increase the value of the movie by much. At most, they would provide audiences with something bawdier to gawk at on screen. Having seen none of it, I can’t really speak with authority on that matter. But if those scenes are anything like the rest of the movie, they’re just dumb, easy jokes that have little to do with the genre the movie is supposed to be spoofing. The cuts are just another layer of awful on this pile of garbage.

My Rating:


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