A Haunted House DVD Review: Bumps in the Night Turn Into Dull Thuds

Despite a strong structure, and a few throwaway gags that hit, the movie commits the worst sin of being flat-out boring.
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With Scary Movie 5 coming out this weekend, it would make sense to review that other spoof movie that is set for release on home video this month: Marlon Wayans’ A Haunted House. A Haunted House came out in January of this year, and I believe is actually better (and I use that term very, very loosely) than the last three Scary Movies combined. A Haunted House has structure, and doesn’t spend time throwing pop culture references into things, making it last far longer than a movie filled with overdone Britney Spears jokes. Unfortunately, for the few things A Haunted House gets right, it suffers from being flat-out boring. Universal’s release of the Blu-ray, while looking good also feels this is a one-and-done movie with the lack of rewatchable bonus content.

Malcolm (Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) is a young couple embarking on the commitment of moving in with each other. Problems arise when a ghost invades their house and is bent on claiming Kisha for himself.

I hate to continually compare this to the Scary Movie franchise, but A Haunted House doesn’t make it easy. Both this and the last SM spoof Paranormal Activity and have starred Marlon Wayans. Where A Haunted House has the advantage is in actually trying to tell a somewhat original story. Malcolm and Kisha are a couple moving in together, and weird stuff happens. All the gags, for the most part, revolve around ghostly entities and/or spoofing horror movies. You don’t have jokes about Gangnam Style, or worse, non-horror movie related items. With that, there’s frustrating glimmers of what could have been a genuinely entertaining spoof movie. The biggest issue I have is that these movies don’t stop to poke fun at the genuine problems within these films. Paranormal Activity should be a gold-mine for satire, from why no one turns on the lights to the dynamics changing within the relationship. There are a few truly funny moments that do try to make a serious stab at humor, including Malcolm actually up and leaving the house (a question I asked of PA when it came out), only to come back because he knows he “can’t sell a house in this market.” You also have the couple actually sit down to watch the tapes, something the last three Paranormal Activities haven’t thought of. Sadly, these moments of true perception are few and far between, and too often far humor, sex humor, and the copious use of F-bombs and the N-word are the primary sources of humor.

It’s a shame because the actors aren’t over-the-top. Wayans and Atkins have chemistry, and are far more restrained than whatever has-beens are in the new Scary Movie. They don’t play the roles with a wink at the camera, or throw themselves into the roles. Had this been a horror movie with them as a couple, it could have had potential. Sadly, the script seems to have no confidence in them because the movie is filled to bursting with terrible side characters. You have Nick Swardson as a gay psychic, David Koechner as a racist ghost hunter, and two annoying characters who want to have sex with a bunch of black guys. If it’s not obvious, these side characters comprise the worst stereotypes of what white people are. I’m all for pokes at ethnicity, and it’s expected in these types of spoofs, but all you can come up with in regards to Caucasians is that we’re racists and gay? Can’t that be said about any ethnicity? The only African-American stereotype employed is Cedric the Entertainer as a priest who’s been to prison and has several children.

On top of all this, the worst sin is that A Haunted House is flat-out boring. I believed at least 50 minutes had gone by, only to see 30 minutes. This film plods because gags are stockpiled on top of each other. The script doesn’t give things time to breath before throwing in a long fart joke. Oh, and jokes are beaten into a pulp. A ten-minute sequence of Wayans having sex with stuffed animals’ plays like he accidentally left the camera running. For the most part, there are a lot of things that just happen and are left hanging.

A Haunted House is far better than going to see Scary Movie 5, and there’s good performances, a strong structure (that’s abandoned), and a few true lampoons of the movie it’s trying to make fun of. But for every thing it does right, there’s twenty things that go wrong devolving into a boring mess with stereotypical side characters that serve no purpose other than to give us a headache.

The Blu-ray combo pack does come with the movie on Blu-ray, DVD, digital, and Ultraviolet. With the price, it’s a worthy investment if you really liked the movie in theaters. The only bonus content is a two-minute "How to Survive a Paranormal Presence" which is a forgettable promotional tool.

A Haunted House will be available on Blu-ray Combo Pack with UltraViolet, on DVD, and On Demand on April 23, 2013 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. It is currently available on Digital Download.

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