‘Haunted House’ does a good job of being bad

By Christopher K. Conner

Apparently because the “Scary Movie” franchise did not provide enough of an outlet for Marlon Wayans, here comes “A Haunted House” to spoof the “Paranormal Activity” movies.

In this film, Wayans portrays Malcom, a happy bachelor who has decided to record the momentous event of having his girlfriend, Kisha (Essence Atkins) move in with him. He initially scoffs at his friends’ assertion that his life will be drastically changed by Kisha once she has moved in.

What Malcom doesn’t know is that in addition to countless boxes, his girlfriend has some kind of supernatural baggage as well and having her move in will change his life more than he could imagine. Almost immediately strange things start to happen. Kisha quickly decides that a ghost is responsible. Malcom decides to have a video surveillance system installed.

Once installed, there is a daily ritual of reviewing the activity of the night before, which grows stranger and stronger each night. Many of the camera shots and angles are purposely similar to those in “Paranormal Activity” meaning those that have seen that series will recognize the parallels.

What “A Haunted House” does well, is getting laughs by inserting absurdity and vulgarity into a horror movie. As soon as the cameras are in place, we see that Rosa (Marlene Forte), Malcom’s cleaning lady, uses the house as a drug facility and a sex den. These initial discoveries are never mentioned, apparently because they don’t relate to the ghostly activity the cameras are meant to capture. Instead Rosa quits when Malcom and Kisha try to prove something is in the house buy laying down strips of powder hoping to catch footprints. Instead of catching a spirit, they catch Rosa sneaking around.

The couple end up sharing drugs with some kind of spirit and it seems they can be friendly with it. They enlist another couple to help with a ghost board session to try and communicate with the entity, but when the two couples end up laughing at the spirit which seems to anger it. From that point on the spirit grows more violent and nothing seems to calm it.

Focusing its attention on Kisha, she begins to exhibit signs of control when she starts sleepwalking. Then her behavior moves from odd to bizarre when she slaps Malcom in his sleep as if to get his attention before she binges on raw hamburger and spoiled milk. Malcom starts to suspect that his girlfriend is the source of the spirit haunting his house.

Over time, Malcom and Kisha bring in friends, family, a psychic, a priest in training and a ghost hunting team to resolve the activity, but nothing seems to be able to prevent Kisha sliding further into possession. Finally the combined team is forced to chase the possessed Kisha around the neighborhood.

“A Haunted House” is not trying to be a good movie. It is trying to be a bad movie. That’s what spoofs do, and this one does it well. There are parts of the film that are uncomfortable and vulgar for the sake of being so, and those parts provide a lot of laughs if they don’t put the viewer off.

In fact something about the point-of-view camera work copied from “Paranormal Activity” and reality television in general, let me laugh at things that might otherwise have made me want to walk out of the film. “A Haunted House” is certainly not going to be to everyone’s taste, but it accomplishes its goal of getting laughs. Just don’t expect to see an eternal classic. Like many spoofs, this one won’t age well as the familiarity of its base material becomes dated. See it soon, or skip it entirely.

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