Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: A Haunted House (2013)

I was going to review this after I saw it on Thursday, but then real life intervened. Sadly, my grandmother passed away this past Friday. I loved her like a second mother, and although the writing had been on the wall for the past couple of months, it was still hard to actually see her go.
So I dedicate this review in honor of my grandmother. A review of a low-brow, gross-out comedy... what a way to honor her memory!
A Haunted House (2013)

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I went into this with low expectations -- it was made by the Wayans Brothers, the guys behind the first two Scary Movie films, which I liked, but it felt as though they'd put all the funniest moments in the trailer, and most of the gags seemed to be pretty low-brow stuff. Well, by the time the film was done, I felt that my expectations had been met. It's better than a Seltzer and Friedberg "reference movie", but it's far from a serious parody of the horror genre or found-footage films, and I found myself forgetting about it by the time I wrote this review.

Most of the gags on display here are jokes about sex, race, drugs, gay people, bodily functions, the works, held together by a threadbare plot that loosely follows the first Paranormal Activity. The only joke that is specifically about horror movies in particular is the timeworn "black people run when shit gets real" joke, which was a fixture of Eddie Murphy's stand-up routine thirty years ago. Nick Swardson's psychic character is a walking gay punchline that comes off as a relic of a simpler, less tolerant time, the main "joke" about him being his repeated attempts to rape the male lead -- and speaking of, there is indeed a gag (two of them, in fact) where the ghost has sex with each of the main characters. Now, I can appreciate lowbrow comedies about sex, race, drugs, and gay people -- hell, the Wayans Brothers already made a much better version of this film in the form of Scary Movie. But here, the jokes feel tired and at times downright lazy, something that isn't helped by the wooden acting from much of the cast (Essence Atkins, I'm looking at you).

Some of the jokes worked better than most. For example, David Koechner's character, the host of a ghost-busting reality show who constantly lets his home problems slip during his work, was a blast whenever he was on camera, and Marlon Wayans managed to carry much of the film's best gags. But they're not enough to save a sloppy effort, especially given that the trailer spoiled many of the film's funnier moments.Score: 2 out of 5

I'll admit, I laughed at some of this film's funnier jokes, and I had an alright time with it overall, so I can't give it a 1. But a lot of the film is simple and would be offensive it it weren't so mindless. Stay home and watch Scary Movie instead.

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