The Score: "'A Haunted House' Is A Mess Of Cheap, Tired Gags That Wishes It Was A 'Scary Movie'"

Friday, Jan 11, 2013 5:52PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

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  • A Haunted House
  • Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins
  • January 11, 2013
Chicago Tribune 1 out of 4
CBS Philly 1.5 out of 4
IGN 3 out 10
Crave Online 3 out of 10
Screen Rant 3 out of 5

A week after Texas Chainsaw 3D shredded its ways to a big box office weekend, actor Marlon Wayans takes a shot at horror flicks as of late in his new A Haunted House parody.

Known for his role in the hit Scary Movie franchise, Wayans tries his own hand at the parody genre with this new movie.

Marlon Wayans wrings every last down-and-dirty giggle out of a single joke in "A Haunted House," his return to "Scary Movie" territory, in truth if not by contract. He's no longer involved in that series, so he limited himself to making fun not of every modern "scary" movie, but just the "Paranormal Activity" series. And for 85 rude and raunchy minutes, he does his best to drive a comical stake through the heart of horror's hottest franchise and the "found footage" genre. (Chicago Tribune)

Using the same recipe which made the Scary Movie flicks popular, the movie's jokes stem from a slew of horror flicks released over the past few years.

A Haunted House is a sorry sendup of the popular and legitimately disturbing quartet of Paranormal Activity chillers and other found and surveillance footage flicks, such as Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project, Chronicle, Project X, The Devil Inside, The Last Exorcism, The Troll Hunter, and their ilk, which have established a beachhead at multiplexes and have not yet been saluted with a roast. So Marlon Wayans, no stranger to scary-spoofdom as a performer (Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2), has jumped right in. But this roast needs a more knowing cook. (CBS Philly)

Rather than rely on a complicated plot, Wayans plays the simple role of boyfriend to actress Essence Atkins' character.

In A Haunted House, Marlon Wayans plays Malcolm, who is excited to take his relationship to the next level with Kisha (Essence Atkins), who is moving into his house today. His friends warned him that it's a bad idea, but he believes in romance and that cohabitating will only make their relationship stronger. But then Kisha actually shows up and, before she even gets into the house, she runs over Malcolm's dog, and the metaphor is made clear. The unwelcome force entering Malcolm's life isn't a ghost, it's Kisha, and the actual supernatural events that occur throughout the film get exponentially larger as their relationship woes deepen. The sexual malaise that comes from seeing each other every day, combined with the sexual advances from literally every other character towards Kisha and/or Malcolm, leads to "funny" scenes of ghost rape that inspire jealousy and passive-aggression, for example. (Crave Online)

Moviegoers should notice a few recognizable comedians including Cedric the Entertainer and Affion Crockett.

"A Haunted House" wrings a few pointed laughs out of this premise. As if fulfilling Eddie Murphy's 1980's standup bit about black families immediately fleeing from spirits, Malcolm's first decision is to bolt. A follow-up demonstrates the tragedy of a homeowner not attracting near-market value in a recession marketplace. But most of the film is merely an excuse to let some ringers run amok. Nick Swarsdon is typically teeth-grindingly obnoxious as a gay, sexually-predatory psychic; more amusing is the racist security guard brought to life by David Koechner, who eventually drops the innuendo and begs Malcolm for the freedom to use the "n-word." Stealing most of his screentime in a third act subplot is Cedric The Entertainer, maybe the most accomplished pro in this case. He almost grabs the film by the hand as he goes over exorcism protocol when one subplot delves into toothlessly parodying "The Devil Inside." (Indie Wire)

Despite a few strong giggles, most movie critics found flaws in the storyline and caliber of jokes.

If you've watched the trailer, you'll know the focus is on fart jokes, sex and smoking pot with a ghost. To his credit, Wayans definitely does not hold anything back in his attempt to get a laugh, and Cedric the Entertainer brings a much-needed fresh energy to the final 20 minutes. But none of that is particularly funny or very original, the characters are crude stereotypes, and the premise itself is not strong enough to keep an audience engaged for the full 90 minutes. Marlon Wayans' found footage spoof A Haunted House is a mess of cheap, tired gags that wishes it was a Scary Movie. (IGN)
There's some inventive camerawork, respectable special effects, and a few big laughs, but nothing close to what you'd consider narrative continuity and no follow-through at all. Every time the screenplay seems to be going somewhere thoughtfully satirical, it just stops and sets up the next outrageous bit. As a collection of late-night TV sketches, A Haunted House would still be (literally) sketchy. As a feature-length movie, it's more like retchy. (CBS Philly)

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