To those of you who boosted A Haunted House‘s opening weekend last year to a better-than-expected $18 million, you have no one but yourselves to blame for the misery that is A Haunted House 2.
Picking up where A Haunted House left off, Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and his cousin Ray Ray (Affion Crockett) are driving Malcolm’s possessed girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) to get help when they crash their car, killing her instantly. Like the noble gentlemen they are, they flee the scene, leaving Kisha to rot. With nary a twinge of guilt, Malcolm moves on, and a year later, he’s moving into a suburban house with his new, white girlfriend Megan (Jaime Pressly) and her two kids, Becky (Ashley Rickards) and Wyatt (Steele Stebbins).
Not even a day into their residence, however, strange events begin to happen. Their dog mysteriously dies. Wyatt makes a new invisible friend. Becky becomes obsessed with an old box she finds in the house. Megan finds a creepy doll that seems to have a mind of its own. Malcolm begins watching the previous residents’ home videos, which reveal a shocking truth: the house is haunted by a demonic entity. Luckily, Malcolm has been through this before and knows what to do…right?
Some might argue that a movie like A Haunted House 2 is critic-proof, but just because it’s intentionally low-brow doesn’t make it enjoyable or anything resembling good. Spoofs like Airplane!, The Naked Gun and even Scary Movie were silly but never truly dumb. There was an intelligence behind the gags, which poked fun at cultural touchstones in a calculated manner while slyly undercutting the serious nature of the genres they parodied (disaster movies, police procedurals and horror movies, respectively).
A Haunted House 2, on the other hand, is brain dead and lazy, mining humor out of tired racial stereotypes, obvious sexual innuendo (multiple gags revolving around the teenage daughter’s haunted “box”), cheap physical comedy and dated stoner references in a patchwork storyline constructed just to cram in spoofs of recent films like The Conjuring, Paranormal Activity, Sinister and The Possession (Was that even a hit?).
The jokes are stale to begin with (even recycling gags from the first film, like his dog dying and him having sex with a doll/stuffed animal), but then Wayans proceeds to beat them to death, with scene after scene consisting of multiple takes of him mugging for the camera as he does a series of quick-cut ad libs that go for the most obvious punchlines. It’s like sitting in a theater watching the world’s worst one-man improv show, with a trickle of pity chuckles to break the uncomfortable silence.
I would feel sorry for those involved if the writing wasn’t so ugly and mean-spirited. Besides being just plain unfunny, the script is a jaw-dropping spectacle of misogyny (including the literal demonization of black females) in which women are all either cackling shrews, vindictive harpies or brainless sex objects — including a childlike doll whose liaisons with Wayans we’re forced to view in explicit detail. It’s all just crass for crass’s sake — as if Wayans, lacking in genuine comedic innovation, wants to shock or embarrass a laugh out of the audience. It’s desperate and pitiful, like a court jester so eager for laughs that he resorts to sticking random objects in his butt hoping the king’s facade will eventually crack. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.