[Screen It]


(2013) (Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins) (R)

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Horror/Comedy: A suburban L.A. homeowner is shocked to find out that his new live-in girlfriend has traded her soul for an expensive pair of shoes, and the demon has come to collect.
Malcolm (MARLON WAYANS) is a suburban L.A. homeowner who is thrilled when his girlfriend, Kisha (ESSENCE ATKINS), agrees to move in with him. Right from the get-go, though, things go wrong. She accidentally runs over and kills his beloved dog. She doesn't cook him meals. They have intimacy issues. She doesn't trust his Latina housekeeper, Rosa (MARLENE FORTE). And he comes to learn that she once made a deal with a demon to afford a pair of designer shoes.

Now, that demon appears to have moved into Malcolm's house and is causing all sorts of creepy mischief. Malcolm first calls on bigoted Dan the Security Man (DAVID KOECHNER) and his slow-witted brother, Bob (DAVE SHERIDAN), to install security cameras throughout the house to capture any possible paranormal activity. He then enlists the help of a gay psychic named Chip (NICK SWARDSON), who immediately starts hitting on Malcolm and trying to convince him to no longer be heterosexual. Once Kisha becomes possessed by the evil spirit, Malcolm hires Father Doug Williams (CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER), a former prison priest and prison inmate, to exorcise the demon.

All the while, Malcolm and Kisha's good friends, Steve (ANDREW DALY) and Jenny (ALANNA UBACH), try and get them to be swingers like they are and swap mates. In addition, Malcolm's thuggish friend Ray-Ray (AFFION CROCKETT) and his thuggish pals try to get the demon out of the house "gangsta" style with mixed results.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics (or in this case, very late the night before release) is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits.

"A Haunted House" is one of those lame, unfunny parody films that you may see in a theater with a couple of dozen people. And 20 of those 24 will barely laugh throughout its excruciating 86-minute running time. The other four will guffaw like that little space monkey that sat with Jabba the Hutt in "Return of the Jedi." Dear readers, those four souls will either be drunk, high, seeing a movie for the first time ever, or members of the Wayans family.

The films being sent up here are the "Paranormal Activity" flicks with their cheap, "found footage" scares. Of course, it's hard to wring laughs from a series of movies that is already as much comedy as horror. But Marlon Wayans thought the pickings were still ripe, so he co-wrote the screenplay and agreed to star as a suburban L.A. homeowner who is delighted his girlfriend is finally moving in with him. However, he is unaware that she has made a deal with a demon for a designer pair of shoes.

The premise provides a flimsy framework on which Wayans and co-screenwriter Rick Alvarez hang a series of crass gags involving everything from adult bed wetting to male rape to so-called "Mandingo parties." The N-word is thrown around liberally, but I doubt Spike Lee will say anything. And there is some really juvenile homophobia on display with a gay psychic played by the always unwelcome Nick Swardson constantly trying to fondle Wayans' Malcolm character and get him to "switch sides." Every member of the cast debases himself or herself. It's just a pathetic movie. I rate it no better than a 2 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed January 10, 2013 / Posted January 11, 2013

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