Marlon Wayans co-writes and headlines his most recent attempt at a horror spoof in A Haunted House. If you don’t like Marlon Wayans’ brand of physical comedy and raunchy humor, you can stop reading now. A Haunted House is almost entirely a vehicle for Wayans and his small supporting cast to spoof the Paranormal Activity franchise, in the best R-rated manner of other recent spoofs. If you do like Wayans as an actor and entertainer, it is a middling comedy that only gets saved near the end by a hilarious turn from Cedric the Entertainer.
The story is largely derivative of the first Paranormal Activity and parts of The Devil Inside. If you haven’t watched those films, the jokes and some of the setups will go over your head. Malcolm (Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Watkins) play an engaged couple moving in together for the first time. Malcolm hires a crazy security firm headed by a goofy David Koechner to install cameras everywhere in his gigantic Californian home. Strange things start showing up on the cameras’ nighttime recordings, in the manner of Paranormal Activity’s famous videotapes. The ghostly stuff is always played for laughs and this aspect of the horror parody is probably the strongest part of the film. It is the type of no-holds-barred comedy where nothing is sacred, from bathroom behavior to bedroom romps.
A Haunted House unfortunately has to drag out the spoof of Paranormal Activity over and over again, as the middle act becomes an almost endless rehashing of that film. Essence Watkins largely plays her role as the straight man to Wayans’ comedic goofball, but she does not have a huge amount of comedic timing or talent. What is funny once or twice gets tiresome as the movie grows tedious, until Kisha becomes possessed in the last act. That switches the primary spoofing towards scenes from The Devil Inside, about a possessed woman. Like a burst of fresh air, Cedric the Entertainer arrives on the scene playing a boozing ex-con and reverend. His character is the funniest of the supporting cast, throwing out hilarious one-liners at a rapid pace. Cedric single-handedly saves the film’s middling plot, as his performance is almost enough by itself to stick with the film until the end.
This isn’t anywhere near as funny as prior attempts in the genre, like the classic Scary Movie. A Haunted House’s script seems obsessed with sticking to making fun of Paranormal Activity for too long, a devotion that does not pay rewards in the end. Nick Swardson’s character, a gay psychic, is also a one-note joke that becomes overplayed as the story proceeds. Those who like raunchy humor and movie spoofs will be entertained enough, so those people should give it a chance. This is classic rental material for all but the most dedicated Marlon Wayans’ fans.
Primarily being a spoof of Paranormal Activity, A Haunted House is largely shot in the manner of that franchise. The digital cinematography is framed in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, presented in 1080P on a BD-50. No one can accuse Universal of bitstarving the AVC video encode, the main feature averages 32.44 Mbps. Universal has done a fine technical job of transferring A Haunted House to Blu-ray. Any problems with the video quality can be laid at the hands of the filming style and low-budget origins.
Much of the narrative is told in the familiar visual style of found-footage movies, from the first-person perspective of a digital camcorder. The actual attributes of the image are relatively strong for that type of visual storytelling, displaying excellent detail in close-ups and a nice degree of clarity. It is only when the shot is highly stylized for the supernatural happenings where the picture begins to degrade.
Contrast might be a tad washed out at times, as the picture is fairly bright. The color palette does not have any serious push toward a particular color, allowing relatively clean and naturalistic flesh-tones. Black levels are fine, if a bit shallow in depth and lacking the inkiest level of absolute black.
A Haunted House is not going to qualify as reference material. The digital cinematography is clean and possibly too vivid for a spoof of horror cinematography, but its decent clarity and consistency deserve some recognition. It looks very similar to a number of other comedies on Blu-ray.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is probably the strongest aspect of the entire disc. There is a strong amount of thump to the things that go bump in the night. A number of surround elements come into play with the supernatural elements, itself almost spoofing the sound design of popular horror films. It’s a clever mix that sounds surprisingly energetic and spacious, especially for a comedy. The sound quality is on par with a big-budget Hollywood production and the mix takes every advantage of all 5.1 channels to deliver a satisfying listening experience. Panning across the soundstage is especially well done in a few scenes, heightening the sense of drama and action on the screen.
Three subtitle options are presented on the BD: English SDH, Spanish, French. All three subtitle options are displayed in a white font.
A single special “feature” has been included by Universal for A Haunted House. Considering how lame and brief the featurette is, this might as well be considered a barebones edition. Partially making up for that problem, Universal has included a DVD copy, an UltraViolet code that redeems in HDX on VUDU, and a digital copy for iTunes. A few Universal trailers and previews load up before the disc’s menu, if your player can handle BD-Live. Strangely enough, the only outtakes which can be seen are run during the film’s ending credits. A cardboard slipcover reproducing the cover art will be included on first pressings.
How To Survive A Paranormal Presence (02:07 In 1080P) – An odd and very brief featurette that is part trailer and part documentary, all in the span of two minutes. It’s almost worthless but does indicate that interviews with the cast were taken at some point.
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