A Haunted House
dir Michael Tiddes
scr-prd Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez
with Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, Cedric the Entertainer, Nick Swardson, David Koechner, Alanna Ubach, Andrew Daly, Marlene Forte, Affion Crockett, Dave Sheridan, JB Smoove, Robin Thede
release US 11.Jan.13, UK 21.Jun.13
13/US 1h26
A Haunted House
Scary movie: Atkins and Wayans

cedric swardson koechner
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A Haunted House This mixed bag of a comedy is best when it's merely telling a story, but the filmmakers continually try to stir in random gross-out gags and corny spoofery. Frustratingly, there's actually talent on-screen that hints at what could have been a cleverly comical take on the found-footage genre.

Malcolm (Wayans) is excited with his new videocamera, and starts making a diary on the day his girlfriend Kisha (Atkins) moves in. The first day doesn't go very smoothly, and Kisha starts to believe there's a ghost in the house. Or maybe cleaning lady Rosa (Forte) is up to something. So Malcolm installs a series of security cameras. When things get worse, their friends (Ubach and Daly) suggest a psychic (Swardson). But it turns out that Kisha has a history with the dark side. And as the chaos escalates, Malcolm sends for a priest (Cedric)

After opening with the usual found-footage boilerplate, the film plays merrily with the tired format. Although mixed in among lame comedy set-pieces is a lively pastiche of the tensions and adjustments when couples move in together. And in between the blatantly unfunny toilet humour are some knowing gags about casual racism and sex tapes. But we've got to weed through an abundance of idiotic rubbish to find something even mildly funny.

In a way, this turns the film into what it's making fun of: movies full of banal, uninteresting footage in which little actually happens. Making this as a comedy has a lot of potential, but instead of maintaining anything like a consistent tone, the filmmakers continually indulge in zany idiocy. And the actors are encouraged to go way over the top, creating cartoon characters instead of remotely believable people we can laugh with or even at.

There are moments when the script almost feels fully formed, finding some genuine observational humour in the situations. Structurally, the movie is like a sketch show, with a stream of wacky characters doing a bit of schtick around the central plot. When the filmmakers concentrate on the characters and relationships, they actually find some real humour. But they simply can't be bothered to maintain that level of invention, constantly reverting to underdeveloped jokes and cheap vulgarity.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, drugs 19.May.13

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