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A Haunted House is unapologetically crass. There are no boundaries it’s unwilling to cross and no subject matter it’s unwilling to mine for comedy. It’s aggressive, in your face and smelly. It’s the type of humor many people might disparagingly call “lowest common denominator”, but really, that’s not entirely accurate. Many of the jokes in A Haunted House are of the easy, low hanging fruit variety, sure, but many others are also more clever sideswipes. Just because a laugh is grimy or dirty doesn’t mean it didn’t require creativity to write. Plus, it takes some balls to go there in a spoof movie.
Unlike a high percentage of spoof movies, A Haunted House is R-rated. That decision to go for the jugular will probably cost the film some money at the box office, but from a quality standpoint, it really helps the film differentiate itself and generate laughs. In fact, that no holds barred strategy is probably the movie’s biggest single asset. From anal rape to partner swapping to naked drug deals to lots and lots of four-letter word, A Haunted House doesn’t hold back, and given all the blandly offensive spoof films we’ve seen over the last decade, that’s actually refreshing. Unfortunately, all of those positives aren’t quite enough to qualify A Haunted House as a good movie. It’s more in the okay to the okay-minus file.
The film follows Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) as they move in together. He’s so excited about the big life transition that he buys a whole bunch of camera equipment to document their lives Paranormal Activity style, but, of course, it doesn’t work out as expected. She refuses to let him tape them having sex, and perhaps even more importantly, a ghost takes up residence in the house, acting like a perverted invisible monster that thrives off attention, negativity and weed in equal measure. Eventually, a psychic (Nick Swardson), an ex-con priest (Cedric The Entertainer), a security specialist (David Koechner) and his slow brother (Dave Sheridan) are hired to help “unpossess” the house, but those efforts don’t exactly go as planned either.
There are quite a few laughs to be had during A Haunted House’s eighty-six minute runtime. As usual, Wayans has a certain charisma on screen, and the first person camera, documentary style footage actually lends itself to his talents. Most of the veteran comedic ringers the film brings in do their part to carry the action too, but the basic format still really runs out of gas. It feels 10 or 15 minutes too long, and it’s very clear scribes Wayans and Rick Alvarez had no idea how to wind up the plot. Most spoof movies share that same problem, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still awkward here, as are about twenty to thirty percent of the jokes that are just complete misfires.
A Haunted House isn’t funny enough or original enough to be fondly remembered for decades to come, but for those without a stick up their asses who are willing to be open-minded, it’s a funny enough kick to the ghost balls.