Friday, January 11, 2013

A Haunted House [2013]

MPAA (R)  USCCB (O)  AVClub (D+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars with explanation)

IMDb listing
USCCB review
AVClub's review

Wow, you know it's January (after the Oscar deadline) when a crop like this weekend's films including A Haunted House (directed by Michael Tiddes, screenplay by Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez) is released and actually stands a good chance of scoring number one in the box office this weekend (I don't know whether to put a :-) or a :-( because both apply ;-).

I went to see the film because I am more or less certain that a fair number of the young people at my parish are going to see it anyway.  And I have to say to Parents that, (1) YES, the film is definitely R-rated (drugs, upper female nudity, backside male nudity, and a whole lot of trash talk), and (2) I can't think of any reason why a teenager, especially a young teenager would "need" to see the film.  And so I would encourage parents to STAND THEIR GROUND with this film as I can't think of a reason why their 15 year old would need to see something this trashy or stupid.  (Let them "grow up" a bit more to see something this trashy/stupid ;-) ... seriously, because then they'll KNOW that it's so).

But that then becomes an interesting dividing line (that of Maturity).  For those of upper high-school (17+) and young adult age, hence those who've reached that "wisdom threshold" and especially those young people of that age who know the films (mostly the Paranormal Activity films) being spoofed, I do believe that as a send-up of those movies, A Haunted House is one of the funniest in years (hence why the film simultaneously got only a 6% (!!) favorable rating from critics AND an overwhelming 94% (!!) favorable from audiences on -- part of my amusement being that together they actually equal 100% but that's of course, only by coincidence ;-).

Yes the film is extremely crude, yes it is extremely stupid, but it is also funny.  It's based on the oft-said joke by African American comedians like Chris Rock (and even Richard Pryor before him) that most American horror movies are basically "white people movies" because "there's no way that an African American family would stay in a house that is haunted ..."

Well in this case, a young, yes unmarried African American couple, Malcolm (played by Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (played by Essence Atikins) move into a house in suburban Los Angeles (note that the white couple in the Paranormal Activity series was also unmarried...) only to find themselves tormented by a ghost/demon (like the white couple in Paranormal Activity was).  And yes, Malcolm's first instinct is just to run.  But he can't.  Why?  Well, just like in last summer's B-movie horror film The Apparition [2012] again featuring a white unmarried couple living in their case at the outskirts of suburban Los Angeles, he can't "run" because he wouldn't be able to sell the house "in this market."  So he and Kisha must stay ... Much ensues ...

Part of what ensues is that most of the people they go to for help turn out to be themselves rather creepy: "Chip" a gay psychic (played by Nick Swardson) who seems more intent on hitting-on Malcolm than searching for a ghost; Malcolm's "gangsta" cousin Ray-Ray (played by Affion Crockett) who quickly and sincerely comes with his "posse of homeboys" still "from the hood" to help is "bro" out when he hears that Malcolm in in trouble only to realize that invisible ghosts would probably be rather immune to bullets from "gangsta arms" ...); and a black "priest" who did his "theology" through a six month correspondence course while in prison (played by Cedric the Entertainer).  Note here that the USCCB review found the portrayal of the "priest" among the most appalling aspects of the film.  Yet most Catholics would know that while there are plenty of "fly by night" mostly Baptist/Pentacostalist-inspired Protestant seminaries that give all kinds of "ministerial degrees" in short orders of time, it takes next-to-for-ever (7-8 years of college/graduate study) for Catholics to get ordained precisely because the Catholic Church takes seminary training so seriously.  Yet the "store front churches" (again mostly Baptist/Pentacostalist-inspired) are fixtures throughout the poorer neighborhoods of America's cities.  So, okay, while Cedric's character would not be a Catholic priest, he could easily be a somewhat "hucksterish" Protestant minister who's both sincere and, well, kinda/rather flawed.  But also, frankly, he's "still out there fighting the good fight" as best as he can.

Anyway, the film is certainly NOT for those who haven't already seen some of the Paranormal Activity series of films (My own reviews of PA 2 and PA 3 are given here)  And yes, I would certainly say again to parents that they could insist on their minors sitting this film out until they reach maturity.  But for those who've already seen the Paranormal Activity films and are of an age to understand that the film is a "send-up" of those films, then I do believe that this film, if often very raunchy, is also very, very funny. 

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