This is a scary movie all right. It's downright terrifying … for a whole host of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with horror. Or comedy.
Perhaps the dog had a premonition of what was to come. Or perhaps it simply read the script.
All we know is that Shiloh, Malcolm's favorite fluffy mutt and loyal canine companion, suddenly ran through the front door and onto the street—almost as if it was fleeing some monstrous horror lurking in Malcolm's nicely appointed suburban house. I'm absolutely certain that the bounding pooch was thinking, "I'm free! I've escaped this horrific movie! I do not have to be a party to its inane jokes! Its salacious sexual escapades! Now I can call my agent and have her tell Kathryn Bigelow that I'll be available for whatever it is she's making aft—"
Alas, poor Shiloh. Struck down in the prime of life by the car of Malcolm's girlfriend, Kisha—just as she was moving in. It's an inauspicious start to a cohabiting relationship if ever there was one.
But Malcolm and Kisha are not about to let a dead dog unduly interfere with their unmarried bliss. No, they plan to forge a life (or at least a few months) together and experience all the rapturous joys that living with one's true love can bring. The sex! The … um, sex! The … well …
But before they can think of what relationships consist of other than sex, their cozy coupleness is interrupted by an unwanted third: a spectral spirit with a yen for possessing innocent (maybe it's haunting the wrong house?) suburban women. What could it be? A poltergeist? A dybbuk? The ghost of a vengeful Shiloh come back from the canine grave to shed metaphysical fur all over Kisha's black pants?
No, the spirit is a ghost-demon that has haunted Kisha since childhood. From the time when she sold herself to the devil for a nice pair of shoes.
Sort of a soul-for-sole trade, if you will.
Believe it or not, that last line may be funnier than anything you'll hear in this movie. Methinks that Shiloh to be pretty lucky.
Malcolm clearly loved his dead dog, weeping over the canine casualty for several minutes and a costume change. And when Kisha is possessed by her demon-ghost, Malcolm shows a similar sense of loyalty, hoping to save her when others suggest running away.
Malcolm and Kisha hire a psychic to help them out. And Malcolm invites a "priest" (really an ex-con who just calls himself a priest) to exorcise the demon-ghost from Kisha. The guy opens his hollowed-out Bible to reveal a massive blunt and other drug paraphernalia. And when he's supposedly reciting from Scripture, he's actually quoting Pulp Fiction. Instead of sprinkling Kisha with holy water, he sprays cologne on her.
Elsewhere, a religious icon is involved in a masturbation scene. We also see a sexualized picture of a nun.
I should mention, again, the evil spirit floating around the home. It throws things. It sometimes drags people around the house if it feels so inclined. And I should let you know that folks communicate to the spirit through the use of a Ouija board, mocking its misspelling of ghost.
After Kisha's mother tells her she's so glad she had her (and that the abortion clinic was closed), she says, "God is good all the time."
I've already mentioned Kisha's exceedingly salacious masturbation scene. So we'll quickly move on to Malcolm being very excited about the prospect of nonstop sex when Kisha moves in. Their first night together he engages in some extended sexual mimicry with several stuffed animals on the bed. Before he's done, the movie wants us to laugh about multiple partners and bestiality, among other things.
Malcolm and Kisha end up not having sex that night. But we see them (thanks to the hidden cameras set up everywhere) consummating their carnal desires at other times, complete with sexual movements and dirty pillow talk. The ghost-demon gets into the act, too, pleasuring Kisha for two hours one evening. The scene again includes graphic language and suggestive sounds. The ghost-demon takes shape underneath a bed sheet, "allowing" audiences to see the two engaged in a number of sexual positions.
The next night Kisha spruces up for her astral lover, hoping for a repeat. The ghost-demon refuses to humor her, though, dragging her out of the room and raping Malcolm instead, pulling down his boxers (exposing his rear to the camera) and generally having his way with the guy.
When Malcolm and Kisha are away, housekeeper Rosa hosts three topless women (we see their bare breasts) who apparently mix drugs for her. She has sex with a groundskeeper. (The sequence includes the use of a leaf blower.) Chip, the psychic, is gay—repeatedly asking Malcolm if he's ever been with a man and manipulating various situations to touch Malcolm's crotch. When Malcolm, Chip and several others chase Kisha in the basement with the lights turned off, we see (via night vision goggles) that Chip has taken off all of his clothes (except his socks) and is groping around for Malcolm. Elsewhere he cons Michael into wearing an S&M outfit.
Malcolm and Kisha's friends, Steve and Jenny, are swingers. Steve insinuates several times that he'd like to "swap" girlfriends or engage in some sort of group sex escapade. (Malcolm's not interested.) Jenny (who sometimes wears thongs and bikinis) flashes her breasts for a hidden camera (we see her handle her breasts), kisses and flirts with Kisha, and climbs on Malcolm's shoulders in a pool to stimulate herself on the back of his head. Steve and Jenny engage in an explicitly depicted orgy.
Kisha confesses to Chip that she has herpes. Then we see a naked Malcolm (from behind) furiously scrubbing his genitals. Someone speculates that Malcolm and Kisha shoot porn videos in the house. We hear talk of affairs and homosexual sex.
Folks are dragged and sometimes thrown by the ghost-demon, who also pelts people with pots and pieces of furniture. Rosa, mistaken for the ghoul, is shot twice in the chest. Earlier—again mistaken for an apparition—she's beaten with a baseball bat. A possessed Kisha is punched and kicked and body-slammed by Malcolm and several other men.
After Shiloh gets hit by the car, Malcolm tries to revive the animal with jumper cables. A man pulls a gun. We hear gunfire.
An old home movie documents Kisha's 8th birthday party. At it she gets in trouble when her "imaginary" friend throws a cake at the camera, leading her stepfather to paddle her furiously—so furiously that Kisha's mom cautions him not to break his new belt.
Crude or Profane Language
Slightly fewer than 30 f-words and slightly more than 30 s-words. A slew of slightly milder profanities include "d‑‑n," "h-ll," "b‑‑ch" and crass descriptions of various body parts. The n-word is tossed casually around. God's name is misused about three dozen times, sometimes with "d‑‑n." Jesus' name is abused two or three times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
To relieve tension, Malcolm and Kisha smoke marijuana—as does the ghost-demon. We see the joint float to what we assume to be the spirit's mouth, then see its lungs fill with smoke. Casper and the couple party most of the night, presumably, with the ghost-demon blowing the intoxicant into Kisha's mouth. After taking the blunt out of his Bible, the "priest" and another person snort cocaine. References are made to erectile-dysfunction drugs and meth.
Characters consume beer and other alcoholic drinks. Malcolm comes home one night drunk, spilling Kisha's father's ashes and breaking a coffee table. Kisha's parents drink from a flask and smoke cigarettes.
Other Negative Elements
Kisha releases copious amounts of flatulence during her first night with Malcolm, sending Malcolm out of the bedroom. He watches her defecate in a toilet (we see her sitting with her pants down), and he asks her to describe it. Malcolm defecates on the ashes of Kisha's father during a drunken night—wiping himself on the curtains.
Derogatory racial humor is woven in throughout.
A Haunted House is the stuff nightmares are made of, but not because it's particularly scary. No, this movie is terrifying for a whole host of other reasons—all of which I've already written far too much about. It's sick and salacious and—except for star Marlon Wayans' curious collection of facial grimaces, asides and ticks—not in the least bit funny.
Old movies were made on celluloid film—a material prone to rapid decomposition and susceptible to bursting into flames. That fate doesn't await most movies now, of course. Celluloid prints are mostly a thing of the past, with new movies first getting digitally downloaded to theater projectors, then encoded onto DVDs and Blu-ray discs, to be preserved for all eternity.
A Haunted House makes me wish that were not true. That instead this film's exceedingly flammable prints would make a quick exit from the cineplex and be archived right next to a live volcano.