A Haunted House

Director: Michael Tiddes

Starring: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Marlene Forte, David Koechner, Cedric The Entertainer, Nick Swardson

Written by: Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez

Running Time: 86 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: 19th June 2013

I had a conversation with someone today who accused me of not liking anything. Not true at all. I loved Much Ado About Nothing and really liked Now You See Me (review soon). My retort was, if the film companies made good films I would like them. So for my friend Patsy, I am afraid here’s another film I don’t like. And for good reason. It’s terrible.

Malcolm’s girlfriend is moving in to his home. Soon after, strange things start occuring and Malcolm decides to film everything and have cameras placed around his house. His girlfriend, Kisha, believes the house is haunted but what she doesn’t know is that she could be the reason.

Why am I bothering with giving a plot synopsis? From the moment the film starts, you realise that this spoof of Paranormal Activity is going to be a series of short “gags” held together by a wafer thin plot that by the end runs out of steam so badly, it has to turn its attention to The Devil Within to reap even more unfunny humour.

Co-written and starring Marlon Wayans, this could quite easily have been a Scary Movie (the series he helped co-create until he jumped ship) so he has gone it alone and come up with a film that has no redeeming features whatsoever. The “jokes” consist of farting, peeing the bed, taking a dump on someone’s ashes and having sex…with EVERYTHING! From the distasteful to the downright dire, the jokes hit low and get lower and lower, till they no only scrape the bottom of the barrel, they remove the wood!

So found-footage horrors (for which there are millions) could be great foils for spoofing, if in the right hands but director Michael Tiddes (whose credits include a video with that annoying squeaky-voiced monstrosity Fred), Wayans and co-writer Rick Alvarez forget the golden rule of spoof comedies; make them clever. Airplane!, the greatest spoof of all time, doesn’t always rely on bodily fluids or a pre-teens obsession with sex to make people laugh. Wordplay, irony and never allowing your actors to crack and look knowingly to the camera. Play it straight. Here, the actors mug and are constantly looking at the camera as if to say, this is funny stuff. No it’s not!

It’s infantile, puerile and, quite frankly, outdated. It thinks that having a woman have sex with a ghost in which we hear (and thankfully only hear) the sound of gushing fluid is the funniest thing in the world. It thinks that kicking a ghost between the legs and having the protagonist announce to camera “I kicked you in your ghost balls!” is top quality humour. Sure, for a four year old!

I know what you are going to say. You are going to say that this isn’t aimed at me but a target audience of teens. Trust me, if I was a teenager, I’d be insulted if this movie was made for me. Teenagers have a far more refined sense of humour than what is delivered here. This wouldn’t have even worked for the audiences in the 70s who went to see the Confessions films with Robin Askwith.

There are good ideas hidden beneath the mindless stuff but they just don’t have a clue on timing or delivery of the gags, so they either linger too long or are cut so short that you miss them. Or if you have a good idea, use it to its full potential. A perfect example of this is when Wayans’ Malcolm is talking to a swinger friend in a swimming pool. In the background is the swinger’s wife doing sexual movements.  Hilarious! If you are going to use that “background” gag, at least make it funny.

What makes it even more distasteful is the underlying misogynistic and homophobic nature. The gags are either at the expense of women as sex objects or how vile homosexuality is. Not only did it leave a bad taste in my mouth but made me wonder how far lower filmmakers will go to get a cheap laugh. Just marginally better than Movie 43 but only just.



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