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Blu-ray Review: A Haunted House (2013) – A Hate Crime Against Humor

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Even in today’s age of using-all-things-digital-like, there is still a heavy usage of a once-everyday item that continues to be employed by the writers working within the film and television medias: the 3×5 index card. The reason for utilizing such a thing is simple: it assists those who have been handed the often-unenviable responsibility of coming up with something creative in assembling what they feel is the perfect story with the ideal elements. Where does Bob go after he walks out of the lounge at midnight? A quick toss of the dart onto the wall lands on the 3×5 card reading “Zimbabwe” — and so it is written. Well, it could be written that way; needless to say, it takes at least an iota of talent or the slightest inkling of discernable taste in order to achieve this method of storytelling.

Recently, I paid an undisclosed source a whopping $5.05 (US) via eBay to receive the actual 3×5 cards Marlon Wayans and his semi-regular filmmaking partner Rick Alvarez used during the creative writing process of A Haunted House: a 2013 cinematic spoof of the ever-annoying genre of found footage horror movies that served as Wayans’ approach of retaliating against the Scary Movie film franchise, which he not only helped to create in 2000, but subsequently vanished from after Scary Movie 2 was released the following year. My reasoning for purchasing these cards was certainly logical from my viewpoint: seeing as how it only took him a little over a decade to exact his revenge, the amount of ingenuity engaged in the writing process of A Haunted House must surely have outweighed the time and mental prowess John Carpenter spent planning out The Thing when production on that movie was halted for an entire year back in the early ’80s.

Surely, something great could have been achieved. You can imagine my extreme disappointment when I shuffled through the index cards bearing Wayans’ own scribbling and saw nothing more than the following words: “White folks,” “Black people,” “the gays,” “fart jokes,” “sex,” “drugs,” “interracial sex,” “ass-pounding,” and finally, “shit.” The latter card was obviously meant to refer to the act of defecation — a bodily function frequently mistaken for humorous by those of dubious upbringing — but, ironically enough, serves as an appropriate homonymic description of Wayans’ crybaby attempt at getting back into a comedic subgenre whose own hasty, unintentional departure from the same had not been missed by anyone possessing an IQ larger than their own shoe size.

Here we are in the first quarter of the 21st Century with a majority of grown individuals struggling to grasp the concept of equality amongst their own fellow human beings. There are radical conservative terrorists in the US who claim to be Christians still upset over the fact a black man was elected as the President — twice. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has issues over people of the LGBT community marrying each other, for fear that they might wind up in happier relationships than their own. Racial and sexual stereotypes abound now perhaps even more than they did back when lynchings were perfectly acceptable Saturday night activates, and the threat of AIDS was met with the unforgivably unforgettable comment: “Well, at least the right people are dying.”

So what does Marlon Wayans do? He makes A Haunted House — single-handedly setting back any kind of progress mankind might have made against said stereotypes with one cheap, unfunny joke after another. Dave Chappelle went into semi-retirement because he realized people were laughing at his humor for all the wrong reasons. Marlon Wayans, on the other hand, alleviates the burden of having to think whatsoever with significantly-assuaged, much dumber jokes and encourages people to laugh at them for all the wrong reasons — assuring us that they are, in fact, funny as well as truthful to the misconceptions of the ignorant public this movie is aimed directly at. He’s wrong, of course — as is the notion any of the aforementioned ill-bred individuals I just intentionally insulted may be harboring that A Haunted House is actually a half-decent movie.

Eddie Murphy once made a hilarious comment about an urban family moving into a haunted house in an old stand-up routine of his. It only took him a few seconds to make us laugh. Since everyone forgets everything after a few years, Marlon Wayans has sought out to replicate the same joke. Sadly, he takes away an hour-and-a-half of your existence away whilst piercing our flesh with sharpened radioactive objects — embedding them into our funny bone and desperately begging us like the fourth-rate failure he is to titter ever so slightly for the sake of his own seemingly-racist and sexist ideals (seriously, with all the backside male nudity in this movie and nary a sight of a woman’s breasts, I am forced to suspect you’re attempting to inter something about yourself, Marlon), but succeeds only in bleeding our funny bone marrow dry to the point where a transplant becomes necessary in order to go on living.

Hey, this movie insulted me, so I am issuing an appositely retaliatory action towards its makers and its fans. I actually did get what was supposed to be funny about the movie, people. But I also realize that said jokes were not funny because the whole movie was so poorly written. And we have Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez to thank for that. Seriously, where are Dave Chappelle and Eddie Murphy when you need them? Heck, even Mel Brooks or David Zucker would have been able to pen far funnier material — which I guess is the reason the latter was picked to handle the Scary Movie franchise Wayans helped to give birth to. Sure, Zucker’s latest contribution to that series — Scary Movie 5, which he only produced — is reported to be just as bad (if not worse) than A Haunted House, but then, as they say: the key to being a successful comic is timing.

And just how long have these unfunny genre-specific spoofs been infiltrating theaters and homes now?

Exactly.

Essence Atkins, David Koechner (who will appear in anything), Nick Swardson, Marlene Forte, Cedric the Entertainer, Alanna Ubach, Andrew Daly, and Dave Sheridan co-star in this abysmal comedy from amateur director Michael Tiddes (who I’m sure did little more than press the Record button most of the time).

A Haunted House hits home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy/UltraViolet Combo pack from Universal Studio Home Entertainment. Shot entirely with handheld digital cameras (to further give it that found footage look, but mostly to save money just like its purportedly-serious predecessors), the movie is presented in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that is decent enough that it elevates far above what the film itself deserves. The color palette and contrast are just fine here, and the amount of detail is fine enough that it becomes regrettable once one views the sight of Marlon Wayans frantically scrubbing his anal sphincter area or the painfully stereotypical gay character (played by some chubby mass of pale white flesh known as Nick Swardson) parading about fully nekkid-like.

Accompanying the feature film is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that delivers the god-awful dialogue, cliché sound effects, and annoying music most efficiently. English (SDH), French, and Spanish subtitles are included here, as is a brief, useless EPK-style extra that is perhaps even less warranted than the main movie itself.

Seventy years from now, our children and grandchildren will hopefully look back at movies like A Haunted House and question why they were made. But then, when you consider the low-budgeted A Haunted House succeeded in making a splash at the box office, and that A Haunted House 2 (for reals, people) is drifting into the harbor at an all-too-fast speed, I have to wonder if there will be anything left of our subsequent generations intellectually to worry about.

Hell, even Boat Trip applied more grace and artistry — not to mention dignity — than this.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.