Imagine a Venn diagram charting three qualities: silly, gross and dumb. At the point where they overlap you will find the fright film spoof A Haunted House 2, a scattershot, anything-goes affair that’s unapologetically stupid. Proudly stupid. Aggressively stupid.
The film is writer/star Marlon Wayans’ take on suburban ghost stories. Putting himself at the center of that usually lily-white genre gives him a target-rich environment for broad, politically incorrect satire. The first entry in the series gave Wayans’ upwardly mobile new homeowner a head-spinning freakshow of a girlfriend (we’ve all been there, right, guys?). Those demons banished, he takes another shot at suburban life with his new girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) and her two teenagers.
Once again, the road to settling down and relationship building is strewn with supernatural stumbling blocks. Wayans is repeatedly hypnotized by a chalk-faced, creepy-eyed antique doll whose erotic magic sends him into a mating frenzy, typically when Pressly or her kids are approaching the bedroom door. The star’s gymnastic, flesh-baring humping and randy pillow talk is funny at first. It’s not the kind of joke that improves with repetition, though. Wayans beats it to death, then to smithereens, then to dust motes.
To the limited degree that the film works, it’s thanks to the all-in commitment of the cast. In a Santeria blood-sacrifice ritual, Wayans has to catch, pummel and slaughter a chicken that turns out to be remarkably uncooperative and tough. The scene is a master class in physically punishing over-the-top slapstick. Pressly is winning as Wayans’ oblivious, cougarish new squeeze. Gabriel Iglesias provides good-humored ethnic awkwardness as Wayans’ Hispanic neighbor, and Cedric the Entertainer returns as a serenely sinful exorcist.
The film parodies a lot of movies that deserve it (its basic framework comes from the “Paranormal Activity” series, the doll from The Conjuring) and one or two that deserve better (the sublimely scary Sinister gets a thorough drubbing, turning its occult killer into an accident-prone klutz). The script is lazy, recycling countless genre cliches rather than inventing novel twists. The jokes aren’t just painted in broad strokes — they’re applied with a roller.
But at least in one way, A Haunted House 2 improves on the first entry in the series. That film had a long, gratuitous shot of Nick Swardson’s bare rump, a horror that the sequel spares us.