Marlon 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.
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 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 chasing demons.
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 the scan through the video). The rest of A Haunted House you’ve pretty much seen if you watched the TV ads.
A Haunted House
Directed by Michael Tiddes. Written by Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez. An Open Road release, playing at Rave Franklin Park and Fallen Timbers. Rated R for crude and sexual content, language, and some drug use. Running time: 85 minutes.
Critic’s rating: *
Father Williams......Cedric the Entertainer