A Haunted House

27 Jun

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You may have heard of A Haunted House. If you have, I will assume the impression that you have been given is that this is a terrible film. If, however, you’ve heard from a friend that this is in anyway a decent comedy, then make sure whoever said that is no longer your friend. If it they’ve recommended it to you, they probably hate you.

I’ll show you my hand early with this one; this is a god-awful film. What I’m going to do over the course of this review is slate it. I will repeatedly state how bad it is. However, I offer you this guarantee – I will not be able to do justice to how unspeakably pathetic it is.

Ok. First thing’s first then; the plot (ha!). Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) moves his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) into his home. Shortly after she moves in, some spooky happenings take place around the house. She’s convinced it’s a ghost of some sort whereas Malcolm is seemingly more practical and doesn’t believe in such nonsense, surmising that there is a more logical explanation than paranormal goings on. Even so, to catch the ghost (or whatever is responsible) Malcolm sets up a series of cameras in his house. As you may have worked out by now that this a parody of the Paranormal Activity series of films, in the vein of the Scary Movie franchise.

I had to check IMDB before starting this review to double-check exactly what genre this film is billed as belonging to. There are two given, “comedy” and “horror”. I assure you it is neither. Where I will give the film credit is it never lulls you into a false sense of security. At the start of the movie, Malcolm is waiting for his girlfriend to join him in bed. Whilst waiting, he spends a considerable length of time simulating sex with a teddy bear. It isn’t funny when it starts, and just like every joke in the movie, it is played out for far too long. As a guess, I’d say that scene lasted about two minutes. That makes it one minute and 59 seconds too long. I can only estimate the scene length as I didn’t have the foresight to time it; I wish I had though, staring at the second hand moving around my watch would have provided more entertainment than anything this film put before my eyes. As I said, there’s no pretense here, the film basically tells you how bad it is going to be within five minutes. Were it not for the fact that I have to finish watching a movie once I’ve started it, I’d have happily walked out then.

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It’s not even just that it’s bad; it’s almost offensively bad at times. The film relies on the most unsubtle use of stereotypes imaginable. There’s black characters who, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, starting getting high at random moments. And hey, if a joke isn’t funny the first time, why not repeat it a few times? There’s a gay clairvoyant who spends the whole time trying to sleep with Malcolm. The problem here isn’t that this scenario could never be funny; the problem is that to laugh at the jokes as they are presented is this film, you have to find homosexuality inherently funny. It is of course possible that you’ll find these scenes amusing and have a good chuckle at them. To be blunt, if you do you’re probably an idiot and a homophobe.

Another joke that gets done to death is that of a couple that are friends to Malcolm and Kisha. They are Steve (Andrew Daly) and Jenny (Alanna Ubach) a white couple, and they are swingers. Their whole time on screen is spent trying to convince Malcolm and Kisha to swap partners. The infuriating joke here is that Jenny is desperate to sleep with a black man, or preferably a group of them. It is possible to make a funny joke about sex, of course it is, but once again writers Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez take the option of clubbing you around the head again and again with the same unsubtle jokes in the most crass manner possible.

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Now, there is one confession I must make. I’m ashamed to say it but I feel I can only learn and move on if I make this public and accept your judgment; there were two occasions in this film in which I smiled. Well, no, it wasn’t exactly a smile. The corners of my lips definitely twitched in an upward motion, but to call it a smile would be overstating it. The first time this happened was at that most crass and basic fart-comedy I’ve ever seen. Now, let me get this straight – fart humour makes me laugh. Some Paul Rudd flatulence in recent comedy This Is 40 made me howl, but I’m aware it’s base-level humour with no intellect behind it. However, A Haunted House somehow manages to take this conceit and strip it of any comedy value, making other fart jokes seem somehow high-brow and philosophical.

The problem is, although it isn’t funny, the scene just goes on for so long that it beat me into submission. It got to the point where I was worried that I if I didn’t acknowledge the joke on screen then it would go on forever tormenting me. So I let the corners of my lips turn upwards with what I would estimate was one eighth of a smile. Sure enough, the scene finished, freeing me from it’s torturous grasp, and the movie just carried on being unfunny.

The other smile came when a priest,  who was trying to exorcise a demon, started quoting the magnificent, famed Samuel L Jackson fake bible passage from Pulp Fiction. My smile was not in acknowledgement of the film I was watching, but more that it had the grace to put me in mind of a better one.

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When that scene played, I knew exactly what I had to do. I would go home and watch Pulp Fiction that night. That would be my way of exercising my own personal cinema demons; my personal offering to appease the film gods. I would go so far as to say A Haunted House is the single worst film I have ever had the misfortune of sitting in a cinema to watch. I knew it would be bad before I watched it and I honestly can’t tell you what made me walk into my local multiplex and ask for a ticket to see it, but I can tell you I regret it.

The only paranormal element of the movie is it’s supernatural ability to create a humour vacuum in every single scene; it displays an uncanny ability to not be funny. There was a point halfway through the film where I was concerned that it may actually destroy my sense of humour for good, leaving me genuinely fearing I may never laugh again.

To let you into a secret, there was a point at which I looked at my watch and, realising there was still 45 minutes to go, I nearly cried. That’s how bad it is. If you think homosexuality is hilarious, or that black people talk funny, or even that a ghost raping a man in his sleep is funny then I make no apologies for saying you are an idiot and this film is for you. My sincerest hope is that the writer and directors of this movie never work in film again, and any actor connected to this abomination should be truly ashamed of themselves for accepting the part. A Haunted House is a spectacular un-comedy. I recently wrote of Django Unchained that it was so good it made me want to invent a new scoring system. Well, A Haunted House is the same, just at the other end of the scale. I am acutely aware that my score is too generous, and the only reason it is registering on the scoring scale at all is because it is, unmistakably, a film. And it quotes Pulp Fiction. Do not watch this movie

0.5/10

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