All things considered equally, Marlon Wayans’ megahit follow-up A Haunted House 2 isn’t as bad as some critics are secretly dreading it would be. It’s definitely not a major piece of cinema or anything that will ever be heralded as being notable in the history of parody flicks, but at least it has jokes and it aims for a higher targets than its predecessor did. Does it have problems? Sure, and plenty of them. Will the audience that would get a kick out of A Haunted House 2 care? Not in the slightest.
The film opens with the “hero” of the first film, Malcolm (Wayans), ditching the presumed dead body of his possessed ex-wife (Essence Atkins) and running off to restart his life. He settles down with Megan (Jamie Pressly) and her two kids (Ashley Rickards and Steele Stebbins, both of whom handily steal the film with deadpan delivery that most young actors could never muster) when crazy paranormal happenings – this time in the style of The Conjuring, Insidious, The Possession, and most amusingly, Sinister – follow him to his new home.
It’s a threadbare delivery system to chuck a bunch of gags at the audience and see what sticks. Really, Wayans isn’t doing anything that much different than the beloved Anchorman or Naked Gun films, and the fact that he makes an open joke about the Scary Movie franchise devolving into irrelevancy without the Wayans clan’s involvement shows that Marlon has a genuine love for these brash and silly crowd pleasers.
It doesn’t make sense that stylistically the film wants to stick to the “found footage” concept when almost none of the film’s he’s mocking here are found footage. On the plus side, the fact that he’s mocking better films means that the jokes that hit are pretty smart, or at the least they go-for-broke like an extended sequence of Malcolm straight up fucking the shit out of a possessed doll. Some of the gags are in poor taste and lots of them are politically incorrect. At least some of them are original enough to elicit snickers from even the hardest of people for creativity points alone. There’s a plethora of tossed off pop culture references that have a high miss to hit ratio. Really the only major problem is Wayans’ tendency to “use the whole cow,” with some scenes simply devolving into him using every possible adlib and line reading for the simplest situations because he can’t quite figure out where to cut.
But in the end I laughed a few times more than I expected I would have and if that makes me a terrible person, then so be it. It’s certainly better than it has any right to be (which is admittedly an incredibly low bar to clear) and it will give the audience that liked the first film something better this time around.