'A Haunted House' is the sort of comedy where having a few drinks prior to watching it is practically recommended in order to enjoy it in the proper frame of mind. And I'm not talking about being good-and-loaded here, just a drink or two. I'm also not endorsing any bad habits. I'm only pointing out that being tipsy helps tremendously while making the lewd, immature humor seen throughout this horror spoof a bit more tolerable, perhaps even laugh-out-loud funny. Otherwise, there is very little to giggle or chuckle at in a comedy that largely depends on physical pratfalls for entertaining audiences and makes cracks about a variety of bodily functions.
Granted, there are one or two jokes which amazingly manage to tickle the funny bone without the aid of any mind-altering substances. The continuing scare-gag with the housecleaning lady Rosa (Marlene Forte) is one of very few which come to mind. A very brief conversation with one character's thuggish cousin Ray-Ray (Affion Crockett) is another fleeting moment quickly lost in a sea of paltry potty-jokes. In a movie comprised almost entirely of immature wisecracks and visuals meant to cause dry-heaving, which only a 14-year-old boy would find hilarious, it wouldn't hurt to do something to let your grown-up guard down. Hence, a small drink is sure to ease the pain of having to sit through this god-awful mess of a movie. Even clocking in at a brisk 86 minutes, it still drains a piece of your soul.
Working with longtime collaborator Rick Alvarez, Marlon Wayans wrote the script for this mess but better utilizes his talents as the main character Malcolm, a man who celebrates his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) moving in by buying a digital camera. As in 'Scary Movie,' for which Marlon is arguably best remembered, the parody is on the popular "found-footage" horror subgenre but is mostly focused around the particulars of the 'Paranormal Activity' films. And like them, this household obsessed with recording every living moment begins recording bizarre paranormal freakiness — along with some unexpected paranormal freaky-deaky behavior in the bedroom. Unlike the first 'Scary Movie,' however, audiences aren't given any sudden, shocking surprises or the slightest hint of clever wit, weighed down heavily instead by tired hackneyed jokes.
The one small indication of a thought-process behind the entire production is a plot that lightly touches on fears of commitment coinciding with a supernatural presence that puts a serious strain on the relationship. At the start, Malcolm is both enthusiastic and nervous about Kisha's arrival and rambles on about words of caution expressed by his friends. Kisha, on the other hand, appears confident but starts moving-day on a bad omen when she runs over Malcolm's beloved dog. When things get really hairy, the couple calls in reinforcements, starting with a perverted security-camera installer (David Koechner) and his simple-minded cousin (Dave Sheridan). Later, Nick Swardson makes an appearance dressed like a marriage counselor but pretending to be a psychic while putting the moves on Malcolm. When that doesn't work, Cedric the Entertainer shows up as a reformed ex-con that tries to perform an exorcism.
Making his feature-length debut, Michael Tiddes directs with competence and expediency, but fails miserably at making any of the gross-out gags and tired humor the least bit entertaining. Of course, much of the attempt is at imitating other "found-footage" movies, and in that respect, 'A Haunted House' succeeds in the most phenomenally embarrassing ways. Then again, part of the appeal and ingenuity of that subgenre is how much can be accomplish with limited funds. Here, the filmmakers have a decent budget to make a movie that only pretends to be limited but accomplish very little with it. Some of the highlights include fart jokes blowing in the bed sheets and an oscillating fan capturing Rosa doing some naughty things. And yet, it feels neither original nor funny.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'A Haunted House' to Blu-ray as two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy and shiny, lightly embossed slipcover. The Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase opposite a DVD-9 copy of the movie. At startup, the disc commences with a few skippable trailers and switches to the standard main menu screen with full-motion clips and music.
'A Haunted Place' tries to scare up a few laughs on Blu-ray with a middling, slightly less-than-satisfying but still passable 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Staying true to the look and production value of the movies it spoofs, the cinematography comes with a variety of minor issues due to being shot entirely with handheld digital cameras.
Contrast fluctuates in several spots, running a tad hot in a few areas and greatly lacking in others, yet whites remain fairly clean and crisp throughout. Black levels also waver noticeably, showing lots of grayish, murky shadows, but a good majority of the runtime has decently well-balanced brightness with acceptable delineation within the shadows. Negligible posterization and banding are evident but also forgivable given the source and intentional look. Colors are mostly bright and bold, but they also feel rather lifeless and digitized.
The presentation's most noteworthy aspect is definition and detailing. Overall resolution and clarity is somewhat disappointing, but we can clearly see sharp fine lines in hair, clothing and random household items. Facial complexions are very revealing with strong lifelike textures and natural skin tones. In the end, however, this is one positive among several weaker areas within the presentation.
The low-budget spoof crashes, thumps, and makes a huge ruckus on Blu-ray with this strong and surprisingly entertaining DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The majority of the design is understandably focused in the fronts where dialogue and character interactions are delivered with excellent clarity and intonation. Channel separation is very well-balanced as objects and characters move across the screen with fluid realism. The mid-range is expansive and highly detailed, generating a broad and spacious imaging. Low-frequency effects are powerful and quite robust with a majority of the room-penetrating commotion taking place in the mid-bass regions.
Rear activity continues the spooky fun with several discrete effects that enhance and widen the soundfield. Random noises throughout the house clatter and boom behind, to the sides and overhead the listening area, creating a satisfyingly immersive environment. Panning from the fronts to the back or from one side of the room to the other is flawless and sometimes hilariously convincing. It's not always consistent with several quiet moments, but the surrounds are used effectively and amusingly, making this lossless mix a good deal of fun.
Although it sees the return of Marlon Wayans to familiar territory, 'A Haunted House' is yet another horror movie spoof full of the same hackneyed and tired potty humor we've seen a thousand of times over. The comedy is rarely funny, much less original, making it easily forgettable. The Blu-ray arrives with mildly satisfying video but surprisingly good audio. With little to offer in terms of supplements, the high-def package is easy to skip, unless the movie has somehow managed to find a fanbase.