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film review

A scene from “A Haunted House”Will McGarry

Ever since the found-footage horror flick became a rusted-in cliché – a moment that dates somewhere after the original Blair Witch Project but well before Paranormal Activity Umpteen – the gimmick has done a splendid job of spoofing itself. However, never one to shrink from the challenge of parodying the already parodic, along comes Marlon Wayans to do in A Haunted House what he once did in Scary Movie. And do it much, much worse. In which case, let's roughly disassemble this House and be quick about it.

The Driveway

"My girlfriend is moving in today," Marlon proudly announces to the camera he's just bought to put the found into the footage. Said girlfriend is Kisha (Essence Atkins), who promptly steers her car into the driveway and splat right over Marlon's dog. Marlon grieves excessively. Mere minutes into this wannabe comedy, we begin to grieve excessively – and not for the dog.

The Living Room

Post-pooch burial, Kisha saunters into the living room to ask, "What's with the camera?" Talk about your rhetorical questions. Unpacking, she takes out an urn containing her father's ashes. Expect to see those ashes again. Not in the urn.

The Maid's Room

It too has a camera. And a maid, name Rosa. At one point, the camera reveals Rosa surrounded by three much younger and conveniently bare-breasted women. Why? Apparently, because it can.

The Bathroom

With the door open, Kisha sits on the toilet producing a foul bodily odour. Why? Because the production of foul bodily odours, by any means necessary, has become the principal occupation of many characters in the current annals of big-screen hilarity. If further proof is needed, check out the résumé boasted by one of the thespians here, a comic named Nick Swardson, who plays Chip the Gay Psychic, and who surely got the gig thanks to his recently released CD on Comedy Central Records, a disc bearing the proud title, Seriously, Who Farted? Seriously.

The Doors

They open, they close, unaided by human hands, prompting Kisha to speculate, "I think we have a ghost." Later, a Ouija board, aided by human hands plus undereducated heads, confirms the speculation by spelling out, "GOST." From somewhere deep within the collective unconscious of an otherwise silent and sullen audience, something resembling a laugh struggles to emerge. And fails.

The Foyer

A white girl in a skimpy bikini comes on seductively to Marlon. Chip the Gay Psychic in his gay psychic's outfit does much the same. Comments are made about Marlon's hunkiness and attendant endowments. Marlon, not to underline the obvious, co-wrote the script.

The Bedroom

Much action here. The bedroom is where Marlon treats us to a "sex tutorial" with the assistance of many stuffed animals. The bedroom is also where Kisha, in keeping with her principal occupation, breaks wind repeatedly, and where the ghost, in keeping with its principal occupation, communes with her, also repeatedly. In each case, she awakens the next morning with a big smile on her face. Lucky gal.

The Kitchen

As pots and pans crash to the floor, Marlon and Kisha, inured by now to such paranormal activity, sit calmly at the table engaged in a normal activity that isn't a complete waste of time – they're both reading. How we envy them.