Movie Review: Wayans tries some “Paranormal Black-tivity” with “A Haunted House”

1starMarlon Wayans wrings every last down-and-dirty giggle out of a single joke in “A Haunted House,” his return to “Scary Movie” territory, in truth if not by contract.

He’s no longer involved in that series, so he limited himself to making fun not of every modern “scary” movie, but just the “Paranormal Activity” series. And for 85 rude and raunchy minutes, he does his best to drive a comical stake through the heart of horror’s hottest franchise and the “found footage” genre.

He doesn’t exactly succeed.

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It’s a “What if ghosts visited a randy black couple in the suburbs” take on “Paranormal,” covering much of the same territory as the movies that inspired it – consulting a Ouija board and a gay psychic, wiring the tract house with cameras to catch images of the things that go bump in the night, and the couple (Wayans and Essence Atkins) who go bump in the bedroom.

And the “flava”? That’s when Malcolm (Wayans) calls in his thug cousin & co. to deal with the “demon” that’s moved in at the same time Kisha (Atkins) did.

Naturally, the thug’s name is “Ray Ray” (Affion Crockett, funny). Naturally, he’s overmatched.

“Cuz, where’s your FURNITURE?” Ray Ray wants to know, before it all tumbles from the ceiling on him and his homies. Yeah, you saw that in the TV commercials and trailers.

Cedric the Entertainer is a foul-mouthed priest who figures it would be easier to find a new girlfriend than to exorcise Kisha. Nick Swardson has “psychic powers, all over my body,” and is more interested in Malcolm’s body than identifying the demon.

Wayans probably hasn’t matured beyond snickering every time he said director Michael Tiddes’ name aloud on the set. He’s aged out of his manic years, but he hurls himself at the nudity, the simulated sex and what not. The night Kisha moves in, Malcolm vigorously practices, on camera, every sexual thing he wants to do with her with his collection of teddy bears.

But Wayans hasn’t given himself much that’s new to play around with, protesting that “checking out” that noise downstairs “is what WHITE people do,” insisting that people of his race “RUN.” And shout instructions to the character about to “check out that noise” on the screen.

Yeah, that joke is played. Taking flatulence gags to new levels and euphemisms for both characters being sexually violated by the ghost – “Touched by an Angel,” and “Altar Boyed” – have an amusing shock value. The ghost’s inability to spell “Ghost” on the Ouija Board prompts a run of dyslexia riffs.

“I’ll bet he spells ‘BOO’ ‘O-O-B.’”

The funniest bit is Kisha’s all-night sleepwalking dance routine (sped up as they scan through the video). The rest of “A Haunted House” you pretty much saw in the TV ads.

(Interview with Marlon Wayans, who talks about why he made the movie, is here)

MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, language and some drug use

Cast: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, David Koechner, Nick Swardson, Cedric the Entertainer

Credits: Directed by Michael Tiddes, written by Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez. An Open Road release.

Running time: 1:25

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12 Responses to Movie Review: Wayans tries some “Paranormal Black-tivity” with “A Haunted House”

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  6. GT says:

    Really? Paranormal Black-tivity? You get paid for this?

      • JosieQuervo says:

        To some, it may sound a bit like the comment of a racist.

      • It’s 2013 — the comedy’s all about “race.” See my link to my interview with Marlon Wayans.

      • GT says:

        Don’t get me wrong, the review seems spot on, just that catch phrase gets me

      • There’s no offense taken, believe me. With Wayans, with any professional “fool” (to use the literary archetype), you give them license, and they give it back. As we discussed in the interview I had with him, “Blair Witch” riffs weren’t going to work because “Black people don’t camp.” It’s a funny, broad and who-knows-if-its-accurate stereotype which is inoffensive because nobody is invested in claiming its untrue. So he ran with it. Seth Rogen runs with my crack that, since he’s married to a Barbra Streisand “nut,” “Wait, you’re married a 65 year old gay man?”, with “Yes, I married Sir Ian McKellen. Don’t tell anybody.” Comedy frees the conversation up, race, creed, religion, what have you. Wayans’ only failing was not having much fresh to say, and not enough gags to make get us past the slow slow slow stretches.

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