Film Review: ‘A Haunted House 2’

A Haunted House 2 Review

Marlon Wayans' parody sequel is as inept and puerile as its predecessor, but let no one say its screenwriter and star doesn't give it his all.

It’s not that the Marlon Wayans horror spoof “A Haunted House 2” isn’t stupid. It is, incredibly so, as well as technically inept, damn near plotless, and mired in humor so puerile, ugly and regressive that this critic witnessed a gaggle of preteen theater-hoppers groan with exasperation at several of the running sex jokes. And yet, there’s a certain tragically admirable level of commitment from the cast, particularly the dignity-averse Wayans, that at least lifts it above the parody-movie nadir set by Date Movie/Epic Movie auteurs Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. It’s certainly likely to be among the worst movies in wide release this year, but it’s far from the most hateable, and that should count for something.

A sequel to last year’s “A Haunted House,” which grossed $40 million even though it appeared to have been financed with change collected from a shopping mall fountain, this sequel finds protagonist Malcolm (Wayans, who also co-scripted with Rick Alvarez) moving into a brand-new home with brand-new girlfriend Megan (Jaime Pressly) and her two children (Ashley Rickards, Steele Stebbins). Theoretically staged as a found-footage exercise, though frequently opting for standard shots with no appreciable increase in quality, the film traces Malcolm’s growing realization that his new house is, indeed, haunted.

Although there are obvious elements imported from recent horror pics like “Insidious,” “The Possession” and “The Conjuring,” it’s hard to really call “A Haunted House 2” a parody. Parodies generally tend to riff on and comment upon the films and genres they’re sending up, while this effort simply uses them as a loose framework on which to hang a rapid-fire barrage of manic, heavily improvised setpieces. Long sequences of Wayans battling a chicken, slapping at moths or engaging in extremely pornographic coitus with a porcelain doll make the Three Stooges look like Jane Austen, but at least they provide some lizard-brain respite from the scripted dialogue, which mines most of its punchlines from racial stereotypes, sex and — with disquieting frequency — domestic and animal abuse.

This is, in other words, truly a bottom-feeding piece of work, but it’s hard not to be fascinated by Wayans’ sincere lack of self-consciousness as he hurls himself across the set naked, spittle dribbling from his mouth, screaming and maintaining a constant patter of off-the-cuff babble with the camera inches from his face. Most top-billed actors, even lowbrow comedic ones, would have betrayed hints of reluctance or shame at some point, but Wayans’ commitment is total, almost to the degree of a performance artist. His ceaseless energy gives “A Haunted House 2” a weird sort of integrity: If nothing else, Wayans and director Michael Tiddes appear to have made exactly the movie they wanted to make, with no pretense to anything more. Whether they should have bothered is perhaps a matter of taste.

Appearing in small roles, Cedric the Entertainer fails to entertain in a reprise of his gangster priest character; Latino standup comic Gabriel Iglesias serves to broaden the range of ethnic humor from simple “see white guys, they drive like this” gags to include Mexican stereotypes as well; and Affion Crockett somehow steals the movie through his repeated, almost Yiddish-like pronunciation of the word “homie.”

Film Review: ‘A Haunted House 2’

Reviewed at AMC Century City, Los Angeles, April 17, 2014. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 87 MIN.

Production

An Open Road Films release of a Baby Way/Automatik Entertaiment presentation. Produced by Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez. Executive producers, Stuart Ford, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Todd King, Steven Squillante.

Crew

Directed by Michael Tiddes. Screenplay, Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez. Camera (color), David Ortkiese; editor, Tim Mirkovich; music, Jesse Voccia; music supervisor, Claudia Moross; production designer, Ermanno Di Febo-Orsini; costume designer, Ariyela Wald-Cohain; set decorator, Marina Starec; sound, Randy Lawson; supervising sound editor, Craig Mann; re-recording mixers, Laura Wiest, Mann; visual effects supervisor, Christina Cardona; assistant director, Todd Hilyard; casting, Venus Kanani, Mary Vernieu, Michelle Wade Byrd.

With

Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, Essence Atkins, Cedric the Entertainer, Gabriel Iglesias, Missi Pyle, Ashley Rickards, Affion Crockett, Steele Stebbins, Hayes MacArthur.

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  1. C-Avery says:

    I saw this movie yesterday. It does have its moments; there are some bits that are hilarious, and I and my friend howled with laughter. Another amusing aspect is this: many of us have grown heartily sick of seeing black people play “the race card” left and right, and so it was quite fun to see Gabriel Iglesias, in the role of a neighbor, throw the race card right back in Malcolm’s face, saying things like, “What?? You think just because I’m a Mexican, I MUST run a gardening service?”

    However, such back-at-you humor is overdone. The first time was funny as hell; the second time, not so much; and the third time annoying– as in, “Yeah, we get it; move along, already!”

    Also grossly overdone is the send-up of black/white stereotyping– “white people don’t do ‘this'” and “black people don’t do ‘that'”– again, it becomes tiresome and repetitive, especially in the context of a married couple. If two people have reached the point of marrying and living together, they should have got beyond all that “blacks are like ‘this’ and whites are like ‘that'” garbage.

    Finally, there is entirely too much of Wayans screaming like a girl from a 1950s B-movie and running around like a chicken with its head cut off, babbling inanities in a put-on “ghetto” dialect. One or two girly screams per horror are okay, but DOZENS of them? No.

    The movie, to a great degree, destroys itself with such excesses. At many points, it’s as though the screenwriter thought, “Oh, well, I can’t think of anything really funny to put in here, so I’ll throw in yet another joke about the purported differences between black people and white people.” In short: a serious lack of imagination.

    Affion Crockett is particularly irksome as Malcom’s cousin Ray-Ray, jabbering like a meth-head in a contrived and largely unintelligible “ghetto” dialect. You really want to slap him upside the head and scream, “Shut the f____ UP, already!”

    Two bright spots are provided by Missi Pyle and Hayes MacArthur, who play, respectively, a psychic named Noreen and her scam artist/pseudo-evangelist husband Ned. They’re not enough to rescue the movie from its other flaws, but they provide a number of good giggles.

    All in all– having seen how funny the “Wayans Tribe” can be, I think they need to ban Marlon from “the tribe” until he has learned a lot more about comedy than he currently knows.

  2. Lanceindmv says:

    This movie was absolutely horrible! I literally asked for my money. I knew I should have went to see Transcendence and snuck into this one. Marlon’s use of the “n” word and Latino stereotypes was degrading, uncalled for, and just damn late. Clearly he loves to show his bare ass in the movies. What’s next Scary Porn? With such a brilliant family this best that you can do….really?

  3. Conner says:

    Dear Variety,
    You have no taste in movies Andrew Barker. A haunted house 2 Is a genius spoof. And how dare you say that the film was made with change from a malls wishing fountain, I bet change from a wishing fountain is worth more than your years salarie.

    • Fijgre90dcoje09rii49053249 says:

      You’re one of those dicks who believe opinion means fact?

      • Eldore says:

        The movie is a big flop – the worst movie ever made. A stupid movie and ignorant movie. I hate the fact that I paid 6 dollars for the movie. I will never go see any of the Wayans movie ever again.

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