I have stared into the abyss and Marlon Wayans stared back. Perhaps this is why the only thing going for A Haunted House is the inclusion of just a single, solitary Wayans (Marlon, in 2012, the apparent Highlander of Wayans Brothers). Having long been banished—in what can only be considered insult to injury—from the Scary Movie franchise, Marlon has decided to once again give horror movies the what-for in that decidedly Wayans tradition of weed and fart jokes.
Now, I’m not saying the sub-genre that A Haunted House is going after — namely, found footage horror flicks — isn’t deserving of or ripe for parody. Frankly, the vast majority of these movies suck, and the niche as a whole has turned into a parade of hackneyed ideas. What I am saying is that the intellectual capital needed to achieve such a comedic undertaking successfully just isn’t here. When the Scary Movie films have worked (within their own limited sphere), it’s been because they’re awash in bad taste and pop culture references, with the sense to throw enough macaroni against a fridge until something sticks.
The key is to keep things moving. No matter how bad the jokes, you’ve got to keep chucking them out there. A Haunted House doesn’t do this. Following the gist of the Paranormal Activity films, it depicts a couple (Wayans and Essence Atkins) who move into a house, are haunted by a demon and film everything, etc. But the movie is organized into set pieces, so we get gags that go on for inordinate lengths of time. Even with an 88-minute runtime, A Haunted House is an exercise in patience. Along the way, we get five minutes of our leads smoking pot with a ghost, an exchange of fart jokes for three minutes, experience six minutes of gay panic, endure two minutes of Wayans humping a stuffed bear and so on and so forth, until the credits finally roll. It’s like a mathematical formula for how to make a terrible movie.
Beyond the purely unfunny nature of it all, A Haunted House does a poor job of skewering the movies it’s after, doing little more than taking the plot of Paranormal Activity (2007) and peppering it with awful jokes. It’s lazy and puerile and just plain stupid. I’d like for the silver lining to be Scary Movie 5 coming out this year, but it looks just as terrible (and actually filled with the same jokes). At the movies, 2013 already looks daunting. Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and some drug use.
Playing at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher