When Marlon Wayans was a kid in New York City, he lived down the street from a plant that printed Mad magazine.
He and his brothers would read copies for free, savoring the vicious wit of the movie parodies.
Years later, he became the co-creator of a series of successful parody movies in the same vein, from “Scary Movie” and “Dance Flick” to his latest, “A Haunted House.”
But Wayans, recently in The City to promote the movie, says “A Haunted House” is something different.
“It’s two characters that you care about. Somebody comes between them, and it happens to be a ghost,” he says.
“That grounds the movie,” he continues. “This isn’t as desperate as the other parody movies. That stuff’s played out. We let crazy stuff happen because of the situation.”
This time around, Wayans plays the straight man, who moves in with his girlfriend (Essence Atkins) only to find that a malicious entity has begun to cohabitate with them.
Other funny people co-star: David Koechner as a security guy, Nick Swardson as a psychic and Cedric the Entertainer as an exorcist.
“You write a movie that’s funny, and then you hire funny people that make it funnier,” Wayans explains. “I wrote those lines so that they could top them.”
The actors were given license to improvise, with a guideline: “In this movie, it’s lust,” Wayans says. “Everybody wants somebody. You want that person, and what are you going to go through to get them? That little theme allowed people to hone in on what they wanted, and gave them crazy ways to get it.”
Wayans says that 98 percent of his writing is research. He inputs material into his “sick computer” of a brain, and results come out the other side.
He admits to watching 100 movies about five times each, and the original “Paranormal Activity” about 50 times.
Also, for the first time in his life, he has begun touring as a stand-up comic, at least in part because he was preparing to play Richard Pryor in a movie that has been put on hold.
Now he says he’s trying to “do his own thing.” The Pryor role is not the first great part that has fallen through for this actor, who has given critically acclaimed performances in movies like “Requiem for a Dream.”
Wayans shrugs it off. “I go back to writing,” he says. “I think, you know what would be a great role for me? And then I write it.”