Moviegoers who enjoyed the first Haunted House as pure guilty pleasure viewing may get additional mileage out of the sequel.
A Haunted House 2 catches up with Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) from the first movie; after the demonically-possessed Kisha seemingly dies in a car accident, Malcolm decides to leave his paranormal activity-plagued past behind him and never speak of it again. Cut to a year later, he and his new significant other, Megan (Jaime Pressly) – along with Megan’s children Becky (Ashely Rickards) and Wyatt (Steele Stebbins) – are living together and moving into their dream house.
However, strange things start happening around Malcolm once more – be it Megan developing an obsession with a mysterious box that she found, Wyatt hanging out with a mysterious imaginary friend, or Malcolm discovering a collection of bizarre video footage in his new home’s attic. Malcolm soon reaches out to others for help – like his old pal Father Williams (Cedric the Entertainer) – in the hope of solving his supernatural problems once and for all.
What sets the first A Haunted House apart from the most recent installments in the Scary Movie franchise (the spoof comedy series that Wayans and his brothers Shawn and Keenan Ivory co-established) is that the former actually has a structure and attempts to parody recent trends in the horror genre, rather than merely string together non-sequitur pop-culture riffs and raunchy jokes (a la Scary Movie 5). A Haunted House 2 – which, like its predecessor, was directed by Michael Tiddes from a screenplay co-written by Wayans and Rick Alvarez – partly keeps that practice alive, but is mostly just a sloppy rehash, which is really saying something in this case.
A Haunted House 2, like the first movie, imitates the visual tendencies and aesthetics of the found-footage horror sub-genre, but here there’s less mocking of the cheap style and logic gaps in the technical construction of films like Paranormal Activity 2; it’s more just about blandly recreating shots from those movies, in order to stage unrelated (and usually lame) comedic set pieces. In fact, most of the Haunted House sequel is devoted to poking fun at recent popular horror movies outside of the found-footage sub-genre – specifically, Sinister and The Conjuring, as well as the largely-forgotten The Possession, oddly enough. Most of the sequel’s sight gags and comedy sequences are lazily recycled from the first Haunted House, as well as the Scary Movie series, so they often fail to produce even the easiest of laughs.
Cinematographer David Ortkiese frequently strays from even retaining the found-footage aspect in this film, which is something that even the first Haunted House managed to do. Unfortunately, hackneyed composition combined with slack editing by Tim Mirkovich (The Devil Inside) doesn’t instill the film’s improvisatory comedy routines or dialogue-centric skits with any vigorous rhythm or pulse – they simply plod along, one uninspired raunchy bit or sex joke after another. To be fair, there’s the odd piece of comedy that earns a guilty chuckle, but most of those end up being repeated many times over, well past the point where that figurative horse becomes unquestionably dead. Meanwhile, most of the rest of the comedy is either too mean-spirited or sexist/racist/homophobic to enjoy as irony, or even simple dumb fun.
Wayans is up to his usual tricks here, which means he spends the whole film either just rambling off jokes or desperately attempting, then failing, to prove that he’s adept at physical comedy. The rest of the cast is composed of D-list talent either being loud and crude (which, obviously, makes them “funny”) or playing flat caricatures – be it Gabriel Iglesias (Magic Mike) as Malcolm’s new Latino pal Miguel; Missi Pyle (The Artist) and Hayes MacArthur (Bachelorette) riffing on Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson’s characters from The Conjuring; or Rick Overton as a professor who (Spoiler?) suddenly turns into a Breaking Bad punchline.
Moviegoers who enjoyed the first Haunted House as pure guilty pleasure viewing may get additional mileage out of the sequel. However, even those folks may start to lose patience quickly, once they realize that this new installment is largely just bad leftovers from the first movie, reheated and served with a different dressing.
Still, if these Wayans comedies are something you enjoy watching with your friends, it’s maybe best to wait until you can see this latest one at home – where you can take as many verbal potshots at its awfulness as you like – rather than spending your well-earned money on a theater ticket.
In case you’re still undecided, here is the trailer for A Haunted House 2:
A Haunted House 2 is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 87 minutes long and is Rated R for crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violent images.