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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review

A Haunted House 2  (2014)
Directed by Michael Tiddes.
Cast: Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, Essence Atkins, Gabriel Iglesias, Ashley Rickards, Affion Crockett, Steele Stebbins, Rick Overton, Missi Pyle, Hayes MacArthur, Dave Sheridan, Cedric the Entertainer, Kurt Carley, Tom Virtue, Kym Whitley, Gregg Wayans.
2014 – 87 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violent images).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 17, 2014.
Brutally unfunny and altogether ignorant, ghost-movie spoof "A Haunted House 2" is nothing if not consistent with 2013's "A Haunted House." In putting on a hasty sequel, returning director Michael Tiddes and writers Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez are of the mind that if their formula isn't broke, there's no need to fix it. The trouble is that just about everything was broken the first time around. This is neither a wittily conceived farce nor a parody smart in its dumbness. Begrudgingly, it becomes plainly apparent after only a few minutes that the filmmakers are once more happy to reach for the lowest common denominator, slapping together an icky non-stop barrage of bodily functions, racial stereotyping and rancid epithets and calling it a comedy.

One year after possessed girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) was left for dead in a car accident, Malcolm Johnson (Marlon Wayans) is moving on with his life and into a new house with main squeeze Megan (Jaime Pressly) and her two kids, moody teenager Becky (Ashley Rickards) and quirky little Wyatt (Steele Stebbins). Megan is completely oblivious to the supernatural goings-on around her as Malcolm is besieged by the evil Abigail doll he's begun a sordid affair with and a long-haired, pasty-faced demon glimpsed in the deadly home movies he finds in the attic. To top that off, Becky's soul is being overtaken by a malevolent Jewish spirit in the dybbuk box she's begun to carry around with her, and Wyatt has a black imaginary friend named Tony who might not be imaginary after all.

"A Haunted House 2" opens with Malcolm's motormouthed friend, Ray Ray (Affion Crockett), suggesting they take advantage of the bedeviled Kisha with a finger gang-bang, and it never recovers after that. The clothesline of horror references are obvious—"Paranormal Activity," "Sinister," "Insidious," and "The Possession" among them—but the film wallows in dampening cynicism. The "n" word is thrown around so frequently it becomes a desperate, lazy crutch, as does its overall preoccupation with groan-inducing jokes against blacks, Mexicans, women, rape-hungry prison inmates, and young boys who prefer playing dress-up and having tea parties over sports (of this last point, Malcolm opines that Wyatt desperately needs a daddy). Even the rare gags that are okay, like Malcolm's go-for-broke sexcapades with the Abigail doll, overstay their welcome. Proper editing is crucial in sticking comedic landings. Then again, so is a good script.

Marlon Wayans (2013's "The Heat") is an appealing actor who usually sells himself short in unappealing movies—typically ones that he writes himself. There is nothing he won't do to get a laugh, which makes his failure in achieving this goal all the more defeating. Wayans' outright obsession with race-based caricatures and misogynistic asides has long grown stale and increasingly mean-spirited, vacant of the sharp, raunchy lampoonery of 1996's "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood." Playing the straight-laced-until-she-gets-between-the-sheets Megan, the underrated, misused Jaime Pressly (2009's "I Love You, Man") deserves far better, her centerpiece scene seeing her spray a particularly wet vaginal emission all over Wayans' face. As paranormal investigator Noreen, a take-off of Vera Farmiga's Lorraine Warren from "The Conjuring," Missi Pyle (2013's "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters") is also too talented for junk like this. A consistent comic spitfire with poppycock to work with, she at least tries to make the best of a dire situation.

"A Haunted House 2" could have had fun putting a goofy, high-energy spin on its spooky cinematic targets a 'la 2000's "Scary Movie," but the amount of times the outcome falls flat outweighs the successes by roughly 100 to 1. As the picture presses on, it grows more loathsome, the direct aims leveled at minorities, the opposite sex, and real-life celebrities making Michael Tiddes, Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez look like bullies. The excessively gruesome violence against animals is one thing—what, pray tell, is amusing about a bloodied puppy being shot point-blank in its face?—but suggesting Rihanna deserved a beat-down from Chris Brown because she provoked him and talked too much is quite another. Ugliness like this runs rampant through a frenetic, barely-there plot that has the cast otherwise racing around and getting hit by objects while questioning what has become of their careers. "When are they going to stop making 'Scary Movie's without the Wayans'?" asks Malcolm. "They fucking suck!" Lately, their own sorry excuses for comedy haven't exactly been any better.
© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman