(On Cable TV, February 2015) Even I am sometimes astonished at the kind of dumb comedy movie that I find funny, and I’m unwilling to go much further down the totem pole of stupidity than A Haunted House 2. A Marlon Wayans parody of recent horror films (most notably Insidious, Sinister, The Conjuring and Paranormal Activity), A Haunted House 2 seemingly has no filter – given the onslaught of crude and puerile humor (usually accompanied by loud shrieks), I’d be wary of watching it with anyone else. (It doesn’t help that the sexual content of the film often goes beyond the limits of what’s usually seen in mainstream comedies.) It fires ten gags per minute, and lands maybe one or two of those. Still, that’s a lot of comic energy (especially from Wayans himself, willing to do anything for a laugh), and I can forgive long unfunny stretches if these are occasional smirks along the way. I will admit that it’s not as good (if good is a word worth using) than the first one, which at least had one or two halfway decent moments and a semblance of thematic depth to its comical hijinks. Still, I’m an easy mark for that kind of film, largely because unlike the bottom-of-the-barrel Friedberg/Setzer “parodies”, this one actually tries for laughs beyond simple re-creation of iconic sequences and slapstick violence. I may feel guilty about it, but A Haunted House 2 gets an “eh, had a few laughs” from me.
(On Cable TV, October 2013) I remain a fan of the first Paranormal Activity, but I’ll be the first to admit that the film (and the found-footage genre) remains ripe for parody. “A Wayans brother stars in a black-themed Paranormal Activity spoof” is the only thing you really need to know about A Haunted House: The Wayans have their own brand of comedy, and it’s almost exactly what we get here. You know: Lame scene recreations, found-footage parody gags, a bit of slapstick, quite a bit of sexual humor (much of it wearingly homophobic), a surprising amount of shrill screaming from Marlon Wayans and a few tossed-away bits of relationship humor. It sounds worse than it is, because for all of its cheap and tired humor, A Haunted House is easy to like. There’s a solid core in the premise that our protagonist’s girlfriend moves in and both have to adapt to the new situation (to say that the film offers a thematic metaphor for the way relationships evolve once both partners live together is stretching the depth argument to its breaking point, though) and both Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins are game for just about everything as the couple finding that their house is haunted by a demon. Far from every gag works, but those who do are plentiful enough to raise grins and chuckles throughout a good portion of the film. Characters at least try to have believable reactions (My favourite moment in the film is when the protagonist leaves and puts up the house for sale, only to come back dejected once he realizes that “you can’t sell a house in this market!”. That and the bit where the lead couple does its best to act nonchalantly at the demon’s antics while the entire kitchen goes crazy around them.), the script eventually becomes a great deal less episodic than could have been expected after the first half, and frankly gets a bit more mileage than could have been expected from the thin premise. The film has numerous issues (the laugh-free ending is weak, and the homophobia is only exceeded by the misogyny through which the female characters are defined), but anyone going into A Haunted House with low expectations and tolerance for good-natured juvenile humor is likely to get, if not a great time, at least a satisfactory number of chuckles.