The ‘House’ That Marlon Built
Actor’s latest film is a testament to his journey as a standout in the Wayans family brand
Fart jokes, scrunched up facial expressions, raunchy sex humor and bruising physical antics don’t sound – or smell – like a recipe for success.
But for Marlon Wayans, star and co-writer of the new horror and romantic comedy, “A Haunted House,” those ingredients could mean a hit for the 40-year-old “man-child” member of the Wayans family.
Marlon believes his success is born out of his failures. He’s had a career full of trial and error projects, some quite successful. All of it has culminated in the launching of this classical slapstick horror flick parody, which cements his place among the best physically comedic actors in Hollywood.
“This is like my Michael Jackson ‘Off The Wall’ album,” Marlon said after a screening of the film in New York City on Thursday. “This is the first time I really got to do me…I got to make the decisions, along with my producer partner Mike Alvarez…It was kind of like I grew up.
“And hopefully it will be successful. It will be my 'Off The Wall' – [and] if not, then it’s Jermaine Jackson’s ‘Let’s Get Serious,’” Marlon joked.
The movie, which opened in theaters nationwide on Friday, is a dig at the faux found footage franchise, “Paranormal Activity,” and co-stars stand-up comedy veteran Cedric the Entertainer, Essence Atkins of TV’s “Half & Half,” and "Anchorman’s" David Koechner.
It follows Marlon’s character, Malcolm, who lets his girlfriend Keisha (Atkins) move into his suburban Los Angeles home, only to discover that she has brought with her an evil paranormal demon. The spirit terrorizes the couple for a month and it’s all caught on a camcorder and a home surveillance video system.
This flick is definitely raunchy. It contains a couple of moments that will undoubtedly make some in the anti-domestic violence and LGBT communities squirm in their seats. But anyone who doesn’t get several hysterical laughs out of the comedic riffing by Marlon and Cedric should immediately check their pulse.
The more cynical members of the moviegoing audience might assume that "A Haunted House" is yet another Wayans overdose on tasteless toilet humor and profanity. But the movie strikes a balance between slapstick and notes of a romantic comedy.
This is perhaps a slight departure from Marlon’s (and his brother Shawn’s) well-known parodies of intentionally scary horror flicks like 2000’s “Scary Movie” and 2001’s “Scary Movie 2.” Though they were box office hits, as was 2004’s non-parody “White Chicks,” much of Marlon’s other silver screen work has not been a smash at the box office.
“Little Man” (2006) failed to do much domestically, as did “Dance Flick” (2009). These failures were, in part, what pushed Marlon to tour the country to perfect his comedic muscle.
In response to Loop 21’s question about his failures, Marlon said he’s thankful for the times he’s bombed.
“Failure is the greatest part of success,” he said. “To me this [movie] isn’t my omega, it’s just a new alpha. Every success you have, it takes a long time to get there. You go up and you come down. And now you’re looking at a greater hill to climb next time.”
For this new movie, he’s not overly concerned with how many box office receipts are counted.
“Right now it just feels good that I accomplished this,” Marlon said. “Accomplishing it ain’t, ‘Oh, it made a $100 million in the box office.’ Accomplishing is, I took a movie that was an idea [and] I did it by myself. I found the financing. I got it distributed to 2,500 theaters and screens for everybody to see."
Marlon is a member of the close-knit Wayans family, an ever-growing group of brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and cousins involved in a variety of projects across the entertainment industry. He and Shawn experienced their longest-running success with their sitcom “The Wayans Bros.,” which premiered in 1995, lasted five seasons and is now in syndication on cable’s MTV2 and Centric. The 1996 cult classic, “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood,” was perhaps their first dally into the parody business. The movie took digs at several early black ghetto and gangster action dramas from the early 1990s.
Older siblings Keenan Ivory Wayans, Kim Wayans and Damon Wayans had all become well known on the sketch comedy show, "In Living Color." Shawn and Marlon eventually had their turns on the show as well.
But striking out on his own, with "A Haunted House," has been where Marlon feels he’s experienced his growth. He says the keys to his recent success have been challenging the advice of some of his older, more veteran entertainment siblings.
“I got to do the crazy s**t that was in my head that my brothers would go, ‘No, n***a. You can’t do that,’” Marlon told the screening audience.
“N***a, you’re really gonna get anal raped by a ghost?” he joked, imitating his siblings.
Marlon took chances. The movie’s R rating might puzzle even the least prudish moviegoer. On past projects, like "Scary Movie," critics have wondered how the Wayans’ brand of embarrassing situational comedy doesn’t get it an NC-17 rating.
Marlon told reporters at a screening reception that he makes these movies for fans and not for critics, who he says scoff at the slightest flatulence joke.
“For me, hearing laughs is why I do it,” Marlon noted. “I don’t do it for s**t else. I’m addicted to laughter…when I hear you laugh based on something that I thought, and we can all share together, that to me is the greatest gift you can give anybody.”