The Wayans Family knows comedy; through their monster ’90s FOX sketch series, “In Living Color,” they easily became a household name, keeping audiences in stitches with hilariously memorable skits and characters like “Men On Film” and Homey D. Clown. And with post-projects that included box office hits like Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2 and White Chicks, the laughs continued, further cementing their status as Hollywood’s “First Family of Comedy.”
The latest project attached to the Wayans brand is A Haunted House, a hilarious ode to the Paranormal Activity series. The film, which stars Marlon Wayans (who co-wrote it along with Rick Alvarez) and Essence Atkins as a suburban couple who live in a house with lots of haunted happenings (and some far out scenes with stuffed animals), recently screened at AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois St., with Wayans himself on hand to greet the Chicago crowd. Others who round out the film’s comedic cast include Cedric the Entertainer (“The Soul Man”), Nick Swardson (Just Go With It) and David Koechner (“The Office”).
For Wayans, coming up with the idea to do A Haunted House was “out of necessity.”
“I wanted to do a ‘found footage comedy'; I wanted to do something different — something that’s never been done.” However, in true Wayans fashion, things came with a different twist. “I wanted a version where it happens to a black couple and make it a comedy,” he said. And while the Wayans name is mostly synonymous with parodies and spoofs, A Haunted House offers a bit more. “People think it’s a parody — it’s a movie, it’s a horror comedy with parody moments,” said Wayans.
A Q&A session, moderated by actor and Chicago native Craig Harris, followed the screening. During the discussion, Wayans kept the audience laughing as he talked about everything from Hollywood’s reluctance to make black superhero movies to the success of the Scary Movie franchise (“Me and my brothers — we did the funny ones”) to his insistence on improv. “If I hire funny people to work on a funny script, I want them to make it funnier. I hate when people don’t let me improvise,” he said.
Regarding upcoming projects, Wayans serves as executive producer for the new series, “Second Generation Wayans”; the “Entourage”-like show, which stars his nephews, premieres on BET in January. “My nephews are the creators of the show,” he said. “This is their point of view; as a producer, I didn’t wanna do my point of view of comedy. I wanted to allow them to do them.”
And as for getting in front of the camera again himself, Wayans admits he’ll continue to mix things up. “I love doing drama, but comedy is just so much more challenging,” he said. “I’m doing what I love — tirelessly — because I love the s**t out of making people laugh.”
A Haunted House opens in theaters January 11; for more on the movie, visit ahauntedhousemovie.com.