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A Haunted House

Theatrical Review

Open Road Films; 86 minutes

Director: Michael Tiddes

Written by on January 11, 2013 

“Don’t judge a movie based on its trailer.” This is a piece of advice that echoes off the digital chamber walls of Twitter whenever a new one is released and people either gush uncontrollably about it or bemoan the impending release of whatever movie the trailer is cut from. In some cases it’s a good creed to live by; since trailers are ultimately marketing tools, it could end up misrepresenting the movie its supposed to hyping molding it into whatever sort of movie the marketing team is hoping will sell and betraying the film’s true intentions (last year’s The Grey is a wonderful example).

But then there are cases where the trailer is exactly what the movie is promising and A Haunted House explicitly fits into that category. Think farts and screaming are the funniest things ever? Did Cedric the Entertainer playing “Tic Tac Toe” on a woman’s arm make your stomach hurt from how insanely brilliant and super clever it was? Then you’re going to smile, laugh and repeat the joke immediately after it’s said on screen the entire time (your friends probably didn’t hear it five seconds ago, so go right ahead — the rest of the audience doesn’t care). For the rest of us, those who perhaps stayed away from paint chips as a kid, A Haunted House is exactly what’s promised and more: nearly 90 minutes of unbridled torture, bottom of the barrel humor and a horrifying lack of anything clever or witty. This is mind-numbing masochism at its worst.

Aiming to parody the horror subgenre/shooting style/whatever of “found footage,” the film apes Paranormal Activity, The Devil Inside and even The Blair Witch Project for about five seconds. The movie stars Marlon Wayans (also credited as a co-writer) as Malcolm, a well-to-do man who invites his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) to move in with him. But this new arrangement, already strained because Kisha doesn’t want to have sex and also farts in her sleep (OH MY GOD, HILARIOUS!), starts getting dangerous as it’s soon discovered that there’s a ghost in the house causing chaos for everybody. In an attempt to rid themselves of the ghostly presence, Malcolm and Kisha turn to two ghost-hunting brothers (David Koechner and David Sheridan) as well as a psychic (Nick Swardson, a red flag for a bad comedy if there ever was one) who is more obsessed with getting into Malcolm’s pants because homosexuals are uncontrollable perverts and creeps.

The film aims to be raunchy and offensive, and it is both, but in a way that’s damn near insulting to anyone with half a brain. The fart jokes start almost immediately, as does the racism, with Kisha going all “goofy fake Spanish accent” on Malcolm’s housekeeper Rosa (Marlene Forte) as a way to insult her. Also, it should be noted that during a brief cutaway gag Rosa is revealed to be a drug dealer because, LOL, Mexicans amirite? Koechner adds into the racism fun by playing a character who deals in all sorts of easy target African American stereotypes, saying that Malcolm probably cooks fried chicken and trying to coax him into letting him say the N-word outl oud. And then there’s the “Mandingo Party” which the less said about, the better.

The rest of the movie is just as uninspired and lazy, as the movie drifts through the Paranormal Activity/The Devil Inside plot without an ounce of passion to be found therein. Atkins is stuck playing the stereotypical “Angry Black Girlfriend” role, sass and everything, and adds nothing to the proceedings. Wayans looks absolutely defeated the entire time, trying to make comedy out of something completely asinine (also, again, he co-wrote the damn thing). Everyone else seems just as uninvested and act accordingly.

I could go on and on, but frankly a movie like A Haunted House isn’t worth wasting the words on nor is it worth you wasting your time reading about. It is shockingly bad on every level you can imagine, unfunny and insultingly stupid, with a touch of basement-level racism and homophobia to boot. I wish a plague upon the houses of those who greenlit this pool of bile.

A Haunted House is now in wide release.


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