I’ve a real soft spot for spoof and parody movies. I enjoy the idea of taking movies, which I love and am passionate about, and holding them up to a fun house mirror to magnify and tweak their foibles. I’m always willing to give them a shot whether they’re works of genius (“Airplane!”, “The Naked Gun”) or poor attempts to string a couple of decent gags out to a feature length movie (“Amazon Women On The Moon”, “The Starving Games”).
The Wayan Brothers have a reasonably good track record in this genre, from 1988’s “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” through the first couple of “Scary Movie” films so when I saw “A Haunted House” hiding away in the depths of Netflix, I decided to give it a go. Something of a surprise hit ($60m worldwide box office on a budget of $2.5m) it’s spawned a sequel which will be released this year.
Firmly tethered to its subject matter, “A Haunted House” follows the plot of “Paranormal Activity” fairly closely. Malcolm’s (Marlon Wayans) girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) moves in with him but things don’t run smoothly as they adapt to each other’s little habits and Kisha clashes with Malcolm’s long-suffering maid Rosa (Marlene Forte). But amongst the usual settling in squabbles, a few bizarre, inexplicable events make Kisha suspect the house may be haunted. To ‘reassure’ Kisha, Malcolm installs cameras in every room of the house (as you do) and after witnessing some spooky shenanigans caught on tape, calls in a Psychic (Nick Swardson) and a Priest (Cedric The Entertainer).
The inherent weirdness of the found footage genre is lampooned to pretty good effect and even when the jokes are weak or overextended, Marlon Wayans has such an amiable screen presence that he manages to tide them over. The effects work is solid and the cast are good value for this easy going dumb as a house brick comedy horror. It even manages to create a creepy atmosphere once or twice but even when it’s aiming for a scare, it can’t resist throwing a fart gag in for good measure.
A likeable, lightweight horror farce with a good understanding of its source material and a neat line in goofy, sophomoric humour. It’s as effective a horror film as “Devil’s Due” was and at least this time, the laughs are intentional.