If first person horror films are your thing then A Haunted House should, in theory, be an ideal form of light relief for you.
We all need time away from disturbing, terrifying horror every once in a while, and horror comedies are great for this. There are plenty to choose from and the more popular ones are often spoofs or send-ups of real horror films. You know, like Scary Movie.
As far as I’m concerned, Scary Movie is a great film.
I have been a fan of the Wayans brothers for years, from the days of I’m Gonna Git You Sucker, Don’t Be A Menace and even up to White Chicks (which does have some amusing moments for a bad film – honest).
The Wayanses (as I like to call them) seemed to perfect the film parody concept and Scary Movie was the pinnacle of this, taking the original working title of Scream and making a film that re-engineered the idea brilliantly, substituting jumps for laughs. It poked fun at Scream along with a few other films of the time such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Blair Witch Project to hilarious effect.
After the Scary Movie train went off track, I was interested to see what Marlon Wayans had up his sleeve for this return to the territory of horror movie parody.
A Haunted House is a little different from the Scary Movies in that it takes a majority of its inspiration from just one film – Paranormal Activity, using the same situation and found footage style but adding a comedy twist. This is a brave move for a couple of reasons. First, The Office is the only comedy production that has managed to use this voyeuristic view to good comedic effect. Secondly, focusing on just one film really limits your options. Also, the fact that A Haunted House is using a 2007 film as its main source of inspiration is risky as audiences will need a good memory to get full benefit of any clever references and nods to the original film.
So does this boldness and risk taking pay off? The answer is, ‘no, not really’. And it’s for the exact reasons mentioned above.
There are only so many ways that the Paranormal Activity situation can be made fun of. And to be honest, other films including Scary Movie 5 are doing it too. Although I haven’t seen the latest Scary Movie film, I can only guess that the Paranormal Activity references will be similar and interwoven with references to other films, which is more likely to keep things interesting.
First person also doesn’t really work so well for Marlon. His Expressions and great character play lack impact if not shot right.
There’s no denying Wayans’ on screen magnetism, he’s great at acting silly. But sadly it’s all lost when his performance is captured on (for instance) a faux security camera. Plus, a bulk of the jokes seem to centre on his character’s sexual attractiveness which after a while it all seems a bit self obsessed and samey. He’s far more amusing when he makes fun of himself.
There are funny moments and a few of the cast like David Koechner help to keep the viewer’s interest. But by the time the Exorcist referencing jokes emerge you start to wonder if it’s all going to head along territory too well trodden, ultimately leaving you asking ‘WHY?’
Why parody paranormal activity?
Why not make things more varied and interesting (as with Scary Movie)?
And why parody a film that is 6 or so years old NOW?
And with a sequel already in the making… Why that too?
A Haunted House is a film that I was really looking forward to and really wanted to enjoy, but it just couldn’t reach the heights of the Wayans boys at their best.