Written by: Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez
Directed by: Michael Tiddes
Starring: Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, and Cedric the Entertainer
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
It'll scare the #2 out of you.
The last few years have seen quite a resurgence in haunted house and supernatural fare, and the Haunted House series (just typing that phrase makes my brain hurt) makes me feel guilty about seeing just about every one of them. But only a little bit—see, I might have paid to see all of these films, but I’m not the guy that decided to capitalize on their popularity and co-opt their shoestring production models to make a couple of shitty, lazy spoofs. That would be Marlon Wayans, whose eyes must light up whenever a studio cranks out another successful hit with the formula because it affords him the opportunity to leech off of them. I hope he’s sent Jason Blum a fuckin’ thank-you card.
Anyway, Wayans will get little thanks from me for inflicting this sequel on the world. Before it gets down to the business of goofing on the films that the first film didn’t (or couldn’t) get around to, it reconfigures the climax of The Devil Inside into a prologue, which seems more like a happy accident rather than actual cleverness. After Malcolm (Wayans) and his motor-mouth cousin Ray’s (Affion Crocket) desperate attempt to rid themselves of the former’s possessed girlfriend (Essence Atkins) is interrupted by a car wreck, the duo decides to split the scene of the accident and ditch the presumably dead Kisha. The film then skips ahead a year, where Malcolm has decided to shack up with a new girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) and her kids.
Cue the worst possible bout with déjà vu imaginable. A Haunted House 2 ruthlessly adheres to the formula of lesser horror sequels looking to simply coast on whatever made the original film so popular, which in this case requires doubling down on terribly unfunny stuff, like a dog’s horrific death and Malcolm’s propensity for fucking dolls. Combining this with the law of diminishing returns associated with most sequels results in a film that may require the development of a new scientific formula to determine just how low the bar has been set here. Usually, I’d praise a film for outdoing its predecessor, but A Haunted House 2 inspires a sort of horrible awe because topping its predecessor may actually require it to be worse, which I suppose it is. I do know that I wish it had the good sense to completely ape The Devil Inside’s ending by just quitting right after the car crash.
Like the original, it’s nothing more than a loose series of sketches inspired by recent horror hits like Sinister, The Conjuring, The Possession, and Paranormal Activity 4. Wayans and co-writer Rick Alvarez rotate between the highlights for each and reimagine them as a goof: Bughuul is suddenly an incompetent dumbass, Malcolm is stalked by a clingy, psychotic knock-off of the Warrens’ Annabelle doll, Pressly’s daughter (Ashley Rickard) finds a mysterious box, and her younger son (Steele Stebbins) makes friends with a notably ethnic poltergeist. That’s pretty much the gauntlet of the film’s jokes right there, but they’re joined by some unsavory forays into more racial humor (Gabriel Inglesias is a next-door neighbor whose shtick involves feigning offense at Mexican stereotypes before reinforcing every single one of them) and uneasy sex gags (many of which center on the teenage daughter, which is eminently creepy).
How bad is A Haunted House 2? Consider this: WWE superstar Mark Henry once starred in an angle where he knocked up septuagenarian Mae Young with a rubber hand, and that’s no longer the low point of his career thanks to his cameo in this film. Further consider that the film takes potshots at the likes of Madea, the post-Wayans Scary Movie franchise, and The Last Exorcism II, but I’d be more inclined to watch any of those before subjecting myself to this again. Those films might be low-hanging fruit, but A Haunted House 2 is rotting fruit that plopped to the ground and was never given a chance at life. There’s no attempt at actual humor here—it’s merely a parade of actors becoming oblivious, shrill assholes racing to reach the lowest common denominator.
As a long-time Wayans fan, I find it disheartening that one of their clan has settled for such base, pandering bullshit, and that he’s dragged other talented folks down to this level. I usually consider myself pretty measured, even in the face of the most banal of efforts; however, A Haunted House 2 is a cinematic hate-crime. Only Affron Crocket’s distinctive accent produced any laughs from me, which probably proves just how easy it is to get me giggling at least. The rest of the film is rather horrifying, and the scariest thing it threatens you with is the possibility that all of the characters will survive and make it to A Haunted House 3. Speaking of survival: I hope copies of this series will remain intact after the eventual apocalypse so future civilizations will know that we deserved everything that happened to us. Trash it!
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