Imagine a Venn diagram charting three qualities: Silly, gross and dumb.
At the point where they overlap you will find the fright film spoof "A
Haunted House 2," a scattershot, anything-goes affair that's
unapologetically stupid. Proudly stupid. Aggressively stupid.
The film is writer / star Marlon Wayans' take on suburban ghost stories.
Putting himself at the center of that usually lily-white genre gives
him a target-rich environment for broad, politically incorrect satire.
The first entry in the series gave Wayans' upwardly mobile new homeowner
a head-spinning freakshow of a girlfriend (we've all been there, right,
guys?). Those demons banished, he takes another shot at suburban life
with his new girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) and her two teenagers.
Once again the road to settling down and relationship building is strewn
with supernatural stumbling blocks. Wayans is repeatedly hypnotized by a
chalk-faced, creepy-eyed antique doll whose erotic magic sends him into
a mating frenzy, typically when Pressly or her kids are approaching the
bedroom door. The star's gymnastic, flesh-baring humping and randy
pillow talk is funny at first. It's not the kind of joke that improves
with repetition, though. Wayans beats it to death, then to smithereens,
then to dust motes.
To the limited degree that the film works, it's thanks to the all-in
commitment of the cast. In a Santeria blood-sacrifice ritual, Wayans has
to catch, pummel and slaughter a chicken that turns out to be
remarkably uncooperative and tough. The scene is a master class in
physically punishing over-the-top slapstick. Pressly is winning as
Wayans' oblivious, cougarish new squeeze. Gabriel Iglesias provides
good-humored ethnic awkwardness as Wayans' Hispanic neighbor, and Cedric
the Entertainer returns as a serenely sinful exorcist.
The film parodies a lot of movies that deserve it (its basic framework
comes from the "Paranormal Activity" series, the doll from "The
Conjuring") and one or two that deserve better (the sublimely scary
"Sinister" gets a thorough drubbing, turning its occult killer into an
accident-prone klutz). The script is lazy, recycling countless genre
cliches rather than inventing novel twists. The jokes aren't just
painted in broad strokes, they're applied with a roller.
But at least in one way, "A Haunted House 2" improves on the first entry
in the series. That film had a long, gratuitous shot of Nick Swardson's
bare rump, a horror that the sequel spares us.
A HAUNTED HOUSE 2
Rating: R for crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug
use and some violent images.