Ebiri on A Haunted House 2: A Movie-Length Nervous Breakdown

Photo: Open Road Films

A Haunted House 2 is not a movie. It is a nervous breakdown. Directed by Michael Tiddes but largely the handiwork of star, producer, and co-writer Marlon Wayans, the film is being billed as yet another Wayans-ized spoof of the horror movie genre, à la the first Haunted House movie and the wildly successful Scary Movie series. (Keenen Ivory Wayans and his brothers were responsible for the first two Scary Movie films; they have since left that franchise, which may explain why a new one was needed.) And there are some familiar digs at recent horror flicks: This time, the creepy doll and the closet from The Conjuring, the family-murdering demon from Sinister, and the dybbuk box from The Possession all make appearances. But this new film is mostly an excuse for star Marlon Wayans to have extended freak-outs in response to the horrors visited upon him — shrieking, screaming, crying, cowering, and occasionally hate-fucking for minutes on end. Yes, you read that last bit right. A Haunted House 2 puts the satyriasis back in satire.

There are stabs at other types of humor here — including a couple of decent bits about racial sensitivity to stereotypes, mostly involving Wayans’s next-door neighbor, a Mexican gardener played by comic Gabriel Iglesias. (The character’s full name is Miguel Jose Jesus Gonzalez Smith, but he dropped the “Smith” from his business name, because, well, “Would you trust your yard work to a guy named Smith?”) But everything in A Haunted House 2 is bulldozed by the star’s preening, ever stranger freak-outs, stitched together with jump-cuts that are supposed to be evocative of the “found-footage” genre, but come off mostly as slapdash salvage jobs.

But to be fair, Wayans’s desire to push these in-your-face breakdowns into ever stranger territory occasionally yields the most twisted of chuckles. They’re so wildly indulgent that, initially, they gather a discomfiting energy all their own. When he first encounters the creepy doll, Wayans starts talking to it, then makes it masturbate itself, then he eats it out, then he screws it, then he chokes it, and … well, it gets weirder (and sicker) from there. (I won’t lie; I laughed at the part where he made the doll eat him out.) That this extended debauchery is later mirrored by a scene where our hero tries to destroy the doll — chopping it up into little pieces and burning it, among other things — will no doubt one day make this film riveting viewing at psychiatric conferences.

Unfortunately, the whole thing gets old awfully quickly. The film hasn’t been conceived with any care given to where it goes, so that Wayans blows both his proverbial and his literal load in those early scenes with the doll; the later freak-outs don’t quite compare. And there are only so many sex jokes you can make before the audience pretty much knows where everything is headed. When our hero’s girlfriend’s oversexed teenage daughter starts to choke on something, you pretty much know it’s going to turn out to be a haunted penis lodged in her esophagus. (I realize I might be making this movie sound better than it is, and for that I apologize.)

Unfortunately, the most predictable thing about A Haunted House 2 will certainly be A Haunted House 3. The movie looks so abysmally cheap that I’m pretty sure it turned a profit on my ticket sale alone. In the meantime, the writers and directors of this year’s slate of horror flicks should be sure to include as many fuckable elements as they can in their films. We wouldn’t want Marlon Wayans to run out of ideas.

Movie Review: A Haunted House 2