Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—A Haunted House (2013) *½

R, 86 min.
Director: Michael Tiddes
Writers: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez
Starring: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Marlene Forte, David Koechner, Dave Sheridan, Nick Swardson, Alanna Ubach, Andrew Daly, Cedric the Entertainer, Affion Crockett, J.B. Smoove, Robin Thede, Jordenn Thompson

The art of the spoof is a delicate art indeed. The Wayans family has long been some of the few who could actually pull one off. They know what works and what doesn’t in terms of structure, but the success rate is still very low, even if you know what you’re doing. Marlon Wayans’  “A Haunted House” is a send up of the recent surge in found footage horror movies sparked by the success of the original “Paranormal Activity”.

Wayans and his co-writer Rick Alvarez are smart enough to just do a pure spoof of that original PA film instead of trying to squeeze a bunch of pop culture references into a wire hanger spoof of the general concept of these types of horror movies. Because of this there are some genuine laughs to be found in “A Haunted House”. The parts that work are when they place ridiculously ordinary life moments into the heightened reality of the found footage horror concept. Things that made me laugh include the first night when the only “activity” involved Wayans’ girlfriend’s flatulence while she slept, the activities the oscillating camera captures the house keeper doing when Wayans is out of the house, and the evening the couple gets high with the ghost that is haunting them.

What doesn’t work are those moments that seem forced into the already thin plot of a couple being haunted by a ghost and filming every moment of it. The girlfriend running over the dog is not funny because the filmmakers seem to believe the act of the girlfriend running over the dog before she even moves in is funny. A dog getting run over isn’t funny, and they spend far too many of the film’s introductory minutes on it. I know Wayans’ behavior at the dog’s funeral is supposed to be funny, but again, the dog dying wasn’t funny, so his reactions to it aren’t either. There is a pay off moment about the dog much later in the film that does work, but all the stuff in the beginning was unnecessary. Providing a picture of Wayans with the dog and having him tell his girlfriend that that was his last roommate, or something like that, could’ve easily set up the later joke.

There is far too much of the latter type of humor than the former, and most of the former type jokes were given away in the trailer of the film. It usually seems to me with spoofs these days that they’re greenlit with only a few good jokes to begin with and this trust that more good will come out of trying to surround those jokes with more of the same ilk. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. One surprisingly good entry recently was the “Twilight” spoof “Vampires Suck”, which easily stands as the best entry of the entire “Twilight” film series.

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