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Jenni Miller

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Review: ‘A Haunted House 2′

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In the running for worst film of the year... and it's only April.

Writing a review of a movie like “A Haunted House 2″ is a fruitless endeavor. It’s the type of movie that gets dumped into theaters with the intention of simply making enough at the box office and on DVD and cable to justify its low budget. There are almost no redeeming qualities to this movie. It is bad enough to trigger an existential crisis in the heartiest of movie-lovers.

Have you ever gone to see a movie on opening night and sat in a theater with three other people who remained nearly silent for almost an hour and a half? That’s exactly what seeing “A Haunted House 2″ was like, although to be fair there was also a mom and her two sons in the theater at one point. She forced them to leave during an extended sex scene between co-writer and star Marlon Wayans and the wooden doll from “The Conjuring.” To be fair, you should probably expect to see a grown man simulate analingus on a prop if you see an R-rated movie these days.

“A Haunted House 2,” like Wayans’ previous horror spoofs “Scary Movie” et al, has a narrative cobbled together from recent events in pop culture and the latest horror movies. The movie begins just after the first “Haunted House” ended, with Malcolm (Wayans), his possessed girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins), and his cousin Ray Ray (Affion Crockett) in a car trying to figure out what to do with Kisha. Fast-forward a year later, and Malcolm is shacking up with his new girlfriend Megan (Jaime Pressly) and her two kids, Becky (Ashley Rickards) and Wyatt (Steele Stebbins). Supernatural stuff starts happening immediately — all featuring events or totems cribbed from movies like “Sinister” and “The Possession” — but no one believes Malcolm. Perhaps it’s supposed to be ironic since he didn’t believe Kisha when it was happening to her? But it’s hard to really care.

The story is a sprawling mess, and it feels much, much longer than 87 minutes, probably because so many of the scenes are just of Wayans reacting to inanimate objects. Wayans and Abigail the doll have uncomfortably long, energetic, creative sex scenes with pretty graphic pillow talk; they fight, she stalks him, he kills her, he buries her and defecates on the grave, she reappears, etc. etc. Or there’s his dead dog, a call back to the first movie. Shiloh Jr. is squished by a falling safe, so Malcolm spends what feels like 10 minutes trying to resuscitate the dog, bury him, sob at his funeral, and bury himself alive in the dog’s grave. There are endless montages of him and of some of the other characters like his neighbor Miguel (Gabriel Iglesias) and Doug (Cedric the Entertainer) just riffing, as if they did a whole bunch of jokes for the outtakes and never got around to picking just one.

At best, “A Haunted House 2″ is a vanity project for Wayans, who spends a great deal of the movie looking directly into the camera as part of the found footage/cameras everywhere ruse. The first movie had Atkins as Wayans’ foil, and she has enough life in her to carry her own against a hyper comedic actor. The story of the first movie was also simpler; it was a spoof of “Paranormal Activity,” but the actual heart of the movie was about a couple moving in together for the first time and getting used to each other’s quirks. Sure, there are tons of gross-out jokes in “A Haunted House,” but there was something a little bit real in there about the scariness of relationships and closeness and being real (and, yes, farting in front of the person you’re sleeping with). And somewhere between the endless pratfalls and freakouts and expletives, there’s something similar happening here as it pertains to being with a parent and their children and fitting into their family dynamic. “A Haunted House” wasn’t a fine movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it was better than expected and maybe not even that bad.

“A Haunted House 2″ turns everything up to 11; it actually seems physically louder. The racial humor is ubiquitous and tiresome, as opposed to the PC-tweaking humor of the first. There’s a lot more sex, and it’s more graphic, but more than that, the scenes are just dragged out so long that they’re boring. Two minutes of pretending to hump the creepy doll from “The Conjuring” is tolerable, but after a while you start to wonder if all of these scenes with Wayans and inanimate objects are filler because none of the humans wanted to share the screen with him.

A movie like this isn’t intelligent about the things it pokes fun of. If you didn’t understand their very dubious theory that there’s a kernel of truth in every racial stereotype, maybe you’ll get it after Miguel actually does work as a gardener and does drink tequila and does have a cousin with an auto body shop, although he called Malcolm out at every turn. And that’s just one example! The use of “bitch” and “ho” don’t usually faze me, but using those as the default nouns for all the women in the movie gets really grating. It’s surface-level satire, as if Wayans and co-writer Rick Alvarez just thought to themselves it would be cool to have the characters say the “n” word a lot because people find it offensive, and boy, it’s funny to make those uptight jerks angry. On a serious note, the ongoing jokes about male rape are loathsome and tired and totally inexcusable. Just… No. Stop.

Wayans and co-writer Rick Alvarez are sticking with the found footage ruse, but it’s almost an afterthought; Malcolm has set up cameras everywhere and carries one with him all the time, so every once in a while director Michael Tiddes throws in a hint of a shaky-cam shot for good measure. It stinks to go into a movie and expect to be disappointed, but “A Haunted House 2 is as half-assed as you’d expect.


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