It’s well into “A Haunted House” before the cast of idiots finally reaches the foregone conclusion that the spirits and demons haunting the place were brought in by the hero’s girlfriend — or, as jailhouse priest Father Williams (Cedric the Entertainer) notes, “It’s in the bitch! … Sorry, the ho’. No disrespect.”
But disrespect is the name of the game for this flat, by-the-numbers “Paranormal Activity” spoof, which suggests that letting your girlfriend move in with you is pretty much tantamount to opening the gates of hell.
“Haunted” gets the “PA” style down pat — sterile McMansion with a constant hum of air-conditioning and surveillance cameras in every room — and a few laughs are milked by parodying specific moments from the franchise (the camera on the oscillating fan, the furniture on the ceiling, the hapless victims getting dragged feet first out of the bedroom), but these jokes are more about repetition and imitation than about parody or reinterpretation.
If the presence of co-writer and star Marlon Wayans has you expecting another “Scary Movie,” it’s best to dial your expectations way, way down — to, say, “Epic Movie” or “Date Movie” levels. About the only truly funny sequence involves Wayans getting intimate with a stuffed animal, and even that appears to have been made up on the spot.
Wayans stars as Malcolm, a happy-go-lucky young homeowner who’s excited to open his home up to girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins — and if she can survive co-starring in the truly bonkers thriller “N-Secure,” appearing in this can’t hurt her). Problems occur before she even gets out of the car, as she accidentally runs over Malcolm’s beloved dog in the driveway. Then she stops cooking, starts going to bed in curlers and cold cream, and passes gas in the middle of the night.
Oh, and she’s possibly possessed by demons, ghosts, evil spirits and herpes. But by the time all that gets revealed, Kisha has already been exposed as a wicked interloper into Malcolm’s previously-pleasurable bachelor existence.
Naturally, any He-Man-Woman-Hater’s-Club needs a gay guy to kick around to prove its masculinity, so “A Haunted House” offers up a flesh-and-blood “no homo” with Chip (Nick Swardson), who’s supposed to be psychic but winds up being more interested in sexually harassing Malcolm than in finding ghosts. Swardson, it should be noted, has become the go-to for movies looking for the most offensively retrograde gay characters the screen has seen since the Reagan years. Everybody needs a niche, apparently.
By the time we reach the climactic moment in which five men are literally beating up a possessed Kisha, “A Haunted House” has descended from mere laziness to an outright attack on the sensibilities. Refuse to make eye contact, and it will be more quickly exorcised from your local theater.