Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: A Haunted House

When one looks back upon their lives, there’s always a handful of wrong decisions that makes you shake your head right there on the spot.  Maybe it was dressing up like Punky Brewster in the third grade or wasting six months of your life chasing a certain someone you would like to forget.  It doesn’t matter whether it was twenty years ago or twenty minutes ago, the pain of those memories elicits that involuntary action.  It had been a while since I last added to my personal list of epic missteps but that all changed the moment I decided to watch A Haunted House.  You may wonder why I even bothered with this film.  Was it because of boredom?  Sure and partially a reaction to the paucity of movies in the marketplace, but a mistake is a mistake and I paid for it dearly throughout the ninety minutes of running time.

The movie is a spoof of the Paranormal Activity franchise in much the same way the Scary Movie franchise approaches other horror films.  It should come as no surprise that Marlon Wayans serves as the writer and star of the projecting considering how bitter he has been even since he and his brother were pushed out of the Scary Movie films.  The plot of this film follows Wayans’ Malcom and his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) as they move into a house together and find a frivolous reason to set up a number of cameras all over their house only to find that a ghost is in their midst.

From start to finish this is a step-by-step parody loaded with lowbrow sex, race, drugs, and bodily function humor to go with a flurry of asinine physical comedy – and I use that word “comedy” very loosely.  Director Michael Tiddes, a man who going into this film had directed the same number of feature films as me (zero), should petitions IMDB to get this movie stricken from his resume as it is potentially the worst movie of not only the year but perhaps the decade.  While there are only so many things you can do in terms of cinematography with the “found footage concept,” my guess here is that you could get better entertainment value from watching the security feed of a retail store.  Across the board, A Haunted House is amateurish in humor, style, and direction.

It almost seems absurd to critique the acting in this movie, because, it’s like shooting fish in the barrel.  However, I am going to give a pass to David Koechner, Nick Swardson, and Cedric the Entertainer.  They knew what they getting into when the signed on the dotted line, and they give this film precisely what you would expect from each of them – over-the-top utterly nonsensical character portrayals whose successes are predicated upon the work of the protagonists.  Unfortunately, Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins leave a lot to be desired in that department.

We’ve seen in the past what Wayans' can potentially be as an actor can be (Requiem for a Dream), but unfortunately more often than not we see what he is not (Scary Movie, Little Man).  It’s more of the same for Wayans in this movie – overacting and an array of histrionics designed to appeal to the lowest denominator in society.  It’s a tired act that torpedoes what little (if any) this movie has going for it and it’s precisely why he has been relegated to the fringe of the industry.  As for Atkins, she is a stereotype, a caricature, who does absolutely nothing to distinguish herself as a performer.  She and Wayans bring out the camp in each other.

So the movie is bad and the acting is terrible.  At the end of the day are you really surprised that A Haunted House is such a debacle?  Of course not.   The Paranormal Activity story arc is played out so there was no possible away a parody about it would play well.  Even still, there’s no excuse for a movie to be this bad.  Sure there are one or two moments where you almost laugh, but those moments are far too fleeting and far too few to make this worth the film it was printed on.  Avoid this one, and Scary Movie 5 (which is out in theaters today) and you will be far better off for it.  In fact, you would do well to strike the entire parody genre from your movie radar as it has morphed from a  once regarded comedic art form into cinematic poop.  You have been warned. 

Standout Performance: Shawn Wayans for sitting this one out.


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