In Wayans' world, a demon with a twist

  • Article by: STEVEN KURUTZNEW YORK TIMES
  • Updated: January 13, 2013 - 10:28 PM

In "A Haunted House," he turns the paranormal genre into a relationship comedy.

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Essence Atkins and Marlon Wayans in “A Haunted House.”

Photo: Will McGarry, Open Road Films

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"A Haunted House," which opened Friday, is ostensibly a parody of the "Paranormal Activity" franchise, down to the found-footage style and the setting in a generic Western tract house. Marlon Wayans' character buys a video camera to document his girlfriend's move into his bachelor pad, only to discover she's brought a demon with her.

But Wayans, who is a co-writer of the film, used an "Exorcist"-like plot to make a horror comedy that explores the anxieties men and women have about moving in together. "The demon really serves as another man that came between their relationship," the actor said. "He's jealous of the demon. It's just so silly, but it's funny."

Wayans, 40, is no stranger to horror spoofs; he was a writer on the first two "Scary Movie" films. But with "A Haunted House," he said, he wanted to feature a black couple in a genre that frequently stars white actors who seem bizarrely unwilling to leave ghost-ridden houses. "Comedians have always said, 'If this happened to black people, this is what we would do,'" Wayans said. "But we never saw it."

Q So how do you think blacks would react differently than whites to living in a haunted house?

A White people are nosy. Black people are nosy, too, but in a different way. They're like, "Is that a noise? All right, I'm out." So many times you watch a movie for an hour and the people haven't even attempted to leave the house. The difficulty I had was trying to make this movie last more than five minutes.

Q Are you a fan of the "Paranormal" movies?

A "Paranormal Activity" was a really good movie. I like the tension they set. Then I saw "Paranormal Activity 3" and I was like, Oh, wow. When those movies are great, it's great, and when they get bad, it's even greater. That genre has been so successful. I wanted to do a found-footage comedy.

Q There's a lot of relationship humor in the film. Your character seems as anxious about cohabitating as he does about the demon in his house.

A There's a certain level of comfort that comes when you move in together. The mystery is gone. She starts dressing for bed in your pajamas, cream on her face, UGGs, curlers. What happened to the sexy girl that used to come to bed in lingerie? The girl says, "We don't need to act."

You can act for a couple of years, but when you move in, you've got to be.

Q Are these observations pulled from your own life?

A I've never really lived with somebody. Only for very brief periods. I learned I'm not a good roommate. I'm better off when we visit each other. I like the mystery.

Q So unlike your character in the film, your house hasn't been taken over by a girlfriend's stuff?

A It always gets completely taken over. Women take the whole closet and only leave you a tiny spot in the corner. I got a man cave. I play my music loud. I bought big speakers because I need to hear music loud.

Q Among your movie girlfriend's many possessions are her father's ashes. Could you keep a loved one's ashes in your house?

A My brother had my oldest brother's ashes in his house. He said he had nothing but bad luck. I thought I'd keep them in my house. But then I thought, what if it's like that tiki in the "Brady Bunch" episode? So we took them to North Carolina and buried them with my grandparents.

Q What would your reaction be if you moved into a haunted house?

A I'd like to see a ghost. It would confirm there's an afterlife. Then I'd move out.

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