The West

Not a ghost of a laugh
Not a ghost of a laugh

A Haunted House (MA15+)
Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, David Koechner, Andy Daly, Nick Swardson
You’ll like this if you liked Scary Movie 1-5, Paranormal Activity 1-4, White Chicks

Just when you think spoof movies are passe - were they ever hip anyway - here comes a crass, crude and criminally unfunny send-up of the Paranormal Activity films and the recent rash of "found footage" horrors.

It's not even the first spoof of Oren Peli's low-budget yet phenomenally successful franchise. Scary Movie 5 was released in April and it's the better of the two. A Haunted House has Marlon Wayans pooping on the floor, simulating sex with stuffed toys and smoking dope with the spectre that haunts his house. Yep, it's champagne comedy all the way!

Malcolm (Wayans) and his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) move into a nice double-storey home but things start to go bump in the night. Malcolm begins filming everything and hires a security expert (David Koechner) to install cameras to catch the ghost on tape.

There's a fart joke about 10 minutes in, and it just gets worse from there. The couple call in a psychic (Nick Swardson) who keeps coming on to Malcolm. Then the ghost has his way with Kisha and Malcolm.

Even in the final third, when the demon possesses Kisha and they call in an ex-con priest (Cedric the Entertainer) to perform an exorcism, the film becomes more a parody of The Exorcist, The Entity and The Blair Witch Project than the Paranormal Activity films.

The whole found-footage phenomenon is ripe for send-up. And Wayans, who co-writes with Rick Alvarez, sets up gags about security cameras, infra-red cameras and even rotating fan cameras. But he lets them fall flat or get completely forgotten. Even gags about Ouija boards, possession and exorcism are dreadfully unfunny.

Malcolm tries to move out, but the US housing market means he's stuck with his haunted house. And that's the best it gets.

In fact, Wayans seems to have just two go-to gags in his comic arsenal; fart jokes and sex jokes, which are on constant rotation.

That would be fine if it was clever or funny. But it's neither.

It's cheap, crass, cruel, clunky and just plain dumb, and it treats audiences with utter contempt.

Guys like Mel Brooks, Jerry Zucker and Christopher Guest get away with telling jokes like that by delivering them with humour and heart.

Wayans and his brothers clearly made a big mistake letting the Scary Movie franchise slip away after creating, writing and co-starring in the first two instalments. Worse still, Marlon is working sans siblings here and seemingly without a script, leaving a handful of comedian co-stars to ad lib their way through it.

But not even Koechner, Swardson or Andy Daly (as Malcolm's swinger friend) can rescue this awful, unfunny, unholy mess. Laughs are the ghosts here.

The West Australian

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