Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Haunted House

You know, not too long ago I would have turned my nose up at anything one of the Wayans family made. But now, not so much. The Wayans family is made up of a whole slew of entertainers, but most notably brothers Marlon, Shawn, Damon and Keenen. Sure they have had their terribly flat comedic moments, but films like White Chicks and Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood are absolutely perfect examples of what they're capable of, not to mention their fantastic TV sketch show In Living Color. So after my recent interest in their films, along comes A Haunted House, a film written, produced and starring Marlon Wayans. I had my fingers crossed for this one.

A bit of back story here: Originally Marlon, Shawn and Kennen were heavily involved with the Scary Movie franchise, and were effectively the creative driving force behind it. After money disputes in the lead-up to Scary Movie 3, they all left the project and a new team of writers, actors and director took the wheel on the hugely popular series. Just over a decade later, Marlon Wayans is in many ways giving us his new take on the comedy horror genre with A Haunted House, most notably basing much of the premise on Paranormal Activity

The story follows Malcolm and Kisha, a young couple moving into their first house together. Despite Kisha's excessive gassy farts during the night, everything seems pretty perfect at first. That is until they start to experience some... paranormal activity (see what I did there? Eh? OK, I'll stop). The ghostly activity is pretty basic at first, but quickly escalates from doors slamming to Kisha and Malcolm getting high with the ghost while prank calling 911. Yep.

The set up is incredibly simple, but nicely opens up potential for some great gags. Since the days of Scary Movie we have seen so many parody films, so many send-ups of well known films, that it's actually pretty refreshing to see something that doesn't reference pop culture every 5 seconds. Remember when Charlie Sheen was in Scary Movie 5? You know, because- for some weird fucking reason- he was hot shit at that time due to idiotic drug and alcohol abuse. Well there's none of that. 

Instead A Haunted House is very much a simpler, downscaled film that places its entire weight on the shoulders of Marlon Wayans. He delivers for the most part too. He's a fantastic physical comedic actor, and this shines throughout. In fact, he's the best part of the film, though he is backed up by a whole host of characters including a ghetto priest that quotes Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction during an exorcism, a gay psychic who desperately tries to get it on with Malcolm, and Rosa the maid of the house that, while the couple are out, gets naked women to cut cocaine and has sex with gardeners.

But despite A Haunted House having some pretty great scenes- including one in which the ghost has sex with Malcolm thinking it’s his wife- it falls flat quite often. It's a little too long for my liking, as the last 20 minutes or so spreads the gags a little too thinly. Also, despite the cast being perfectly acceptable, it would have been fantastic if Shawn, Marlon’s brother who starred with him in White Chicks, took a role in the film. They have great chemistry together and play off each other so well, and this lack of chemistry and effort on everyone’s parts aside from the lead is evident throughout. And yeah, it's not all laugh-out-loud material, but it tries, and when it fails it just moves on and never dwells on any gag too much.

Here's the thing. This is one of those films that get awful reviews and everyone shits all over, but that they probably secretly enjoyed. Go on, admit it. It's funny. You're safe here. If you're reading this review feel free to join W.A.A (Wayans Appreciation Anonymous) like the rest of us. Yea, it's not as good as other projects Marlon has worked on, but it does have its moments.

A Haunted House ghostbusts its way to a 6/10.

Denis Murphy

A Haunted House at CeX

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