FILM: A Haunted House (15)

SmartAss - 1050.NEF
SmartAss - 1050.NEF

In recent years, the fine art of the film spoof has been completely lost in a blitzkrieg of lazy, crass parodies lacking any subtlety or invention.

The Scary Movie series, which began in 2000 and has somehow spluttered and wheezed to five instalments so far, is a lamentable case in point. Created to tap into the popularity of Wes Craven’s slasher Scream, the foul-mouthed horror-comedy franchise has repeatedly taken pot shots at easy targets, trading mean-spirited, base humour for pitiful laughs.

Actor Marlon Wayans, who has starred in and co-written a number of the Scary Movies, continues to lampoon the genre with this ham-fisted parody of Paranormal Activity, with occasional forays into The Devil Inside and similar found footage thrillers. A Haunted House scares perhaps one giggle in 85 lacklustre and occasionally offensive minutes, taking the concept of ‘things that go bump in the night’ to its raunchy conclusion.

Bodily functions including flatulence and sexual peccadilloes account for the vast majority of Wayan’s humour, who revels in the humiliation of characters for our supposed enjoyment. More troubling, there’s the inescapable stench of homophobia in a number of scenes, including the suggestion that gay men are predators, who would just as soon pounce on a straight man as look at him.

The ramshackle plot centres on Malcolm Johnson (Wayans), who moves into a new home with his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins). They are looking forward to their new life together but invariably things don’t work out quite as planned. Surveillance cameras, installed predominantly to document Malcolm’s sexual shenanigans with Kisha now they are co-habiting, reveal the presence of a malevolent force in house. The spirit is evidently attracted to Kisha and sexually assaults her, then transfers its affections to Malcolm, treating him to a similar invasion of privacy.

Malcolm calls in a psychic called Chip (Nick Swardson) to make contact with the spirit but Chip is more interested in getting his hands on Malcolm’s body than driving out the randy forces of evil. As the visitations increase in intensity and our will to live wanes, Father Doug Williams (Cedric The Entertainer) arrives to cleanse the property but not even a man of God is protected from harm.

A Haunted House serves up a lame cocktail of racism, sexism and bigotry that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The tone throughout is puerile and crude including Malcolm performing an unspeakable act while drunk, which apparently warrants a lingering close-up. The script, co-written by Rick Alvarez, scrapes the bottom of the barrel at every turn.

A sequel is already pencilled in for 2014. Now’s that’s horrifying.


Released: June 19 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas), 85 mins