A House Is Not a Home (2016)

A House Is Not a Home is notable as one of the rare haunted house movies to revolve around black protagonists — something, as I’ve noted, to which mainstream horror seems averse. Its poster could actually be seen as an homage to one of the few mainstream ghost films with a black main character — the House on Haunted Hill remake — although, in truth, the AHINAH poster is probably just a lazy knockoff.

Exhibit A:

House on Haunted Hill 1999 horror movie poster

A House Is Not a Home is directed by Christopher Ray, son of cult filmmaker Fred Olen Ray (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Evil Toons, Scalps) and director of such cultural touchstones as 2-Headed Shark Attack, 3-Headed Shark Attack, Mega Shark vs. Kolossus, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, Megaconda and Reptisaurus, so…just know that’s the baseline we’re dealing with here.

AHINAH isn’t nearly as campy as Ray’s track record would imply, but it’s also not particularly good. It’s a straightforward, basic cable-level haunted house flick with the expected elements: a family moving into a new home with a dark past, things that go bump in the night, creepy antique dolls, a little girl ghost, a demonic presence, a paranormal expert called in to help, yadda yadda yadda. In fact, aside from the race of the family, the thing that makes it stand out most — besides being one of the only horror movies named after a Luther Vandross song (along with Creepin’) — is the fact that it has so many recognizable faces for such low-budget fare.

Included in the cast are Richard Grieco (21 Jump Street), Eddie Steeples (My Name Is Earl), veteran character actor Bill Cobbs (The People Under the Stairs, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer), Aurora Perrineau (Jem and the Holograms) and Vine star Melvin Gregg (Freakish). Even Rachel True (The Craft) lends her voice as a 911 operator. The actors (aside from the perpetually mouth-breathing Gregg) help elevate the generic storyline and plodding action that at some point devolves into an eternity of characters repeatedly walking through doors.

Although the protagonists’ race is a point of distinction for the film from the outside looking in, the script itself is race-neutral. The director and writers are white, and the hiring of an almost exclusively black cast in a story that doesn’t revolve around the “hood” or any other racially charged element (see writers James and Jon Kondelik’s yes-this-is-a-real-movie Snake Outta Compton) makes it something of a rarity — a refreshing aspect of an otherwise stale film.

A scene from the horror movie A House Is Not a Home
Anyone who calls this number deserves whatever they get.
A scene from the horror movie A House Is Not a Home
No one ever talks about the hazards of paper plates.
A scene from the horror movie A House Is Not a Home
“Meh,” the ghost muttered.
A scene from the horror movie A House Is Not a Home
“I swear, if you miss another note, I will scald you blind.”
A scene from the horror movie A House Is Not a Home
“My father was part Husky.”
A scene from the horror movie A House Is Not a Home
“Do I make you HORNY???…Austin Powers? Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?”
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Racial Representation
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