MARLON WAYANS didn't want to make "A Haunted House 2." Despite raking in over $40 million on a $2.5 million budget, Wayans was weary about revisiting his 2013 horror-comedy, in which he stars as Malcolm, who gets stuck in situations familiar to fans of such films as "Paranormal Activity," "Insidious" or "Sinister." But a creepy doll changed his mind, leading to the sequel that hits theaters today.
"I didn't want to whore out the franchise. If it's not organic and we can't find a good evolution for the character, I don't know if I want to do a sequel," Wayans said. "But then we came across 'The Conjuring' and I thought, 'That little doll is so scary, the way she stalks you.' It lent us some fun stuff, and a funny story line."
So Wayans and his writing partner, Rick Alvarez, started watching other haunted house movies, like "Amityville Horror," to find their story line. While the first "A Haunted House" film set up found footage movies like "Paranormal Activity," as Malcolm dealt with a possessed girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins), "Haunted House 2" sees an evolved Malcolm. He's now moving in with Megan (Jaime Pressly) and her two kids.
"The stakes are higher this time around," Wayans said. "He's got these two kids. One has the worst imaginary friend ever, the daughter has a box that does crazy things , then his crazy ex-girlfriend moves in."
That's where the comedy lies for Wayans. "Watching guys unravel in comedy is classic and I love when my heroes play put upon, like Jim Carrey in 'Liar, Liar,' or many of the Ben Stiller movies that allow him to be reactive. We just gave Malcolm a complex situation and fun characters to deal with and that gave us that floor that we needed to make the movie," Wayans said.
Part of his hesitation about making a sequel came from his desire to please his audience. He readily acknowledges that his films aren't high art and that his comedies are broad. He workshops his movies with an audience, test-screening them and changing elements that don't work. It's all in the service of making his audience laugh.
"I've always been intrigued by broad comedies. I've always loved Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Abbott and Costello, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor. Some movies make you think and other movies make you laugh, and they're shameless where they go when they make you laugh. Jim Carrey is shameless but his best performances are grounded where he goes to crazy places. Charlie Chaplin in 'City Lights,' he's in a situation where he means well, but it gets out of control," Wayans said.
"I've always wanted to be a really funny, shameless, physical comedian. There's no better laugh than that. S---, be a little shameless with me and laugh."