Review: ‘The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2,’ starring Mike Epps and Katt Williams

June 19, 2021

by Carla Hay

Michael Blackson, Mike Epps, Zulay Henao, Bresha Webb and Lil Duval in “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2”

Directed by Deon Taylor

Culture Representation: Taking place in Atlanta, the horror comedy film “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” features a predominantly African American cast of characters (with a few white people and Latinos) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A married father and his bachelor cousin are convinced that their new next-door neighbor is a vampire.

Culture Audience: “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching crass and unimaginative movies filled with derogatory name-calling of women and black people.

Shamea Morton, Katt Williams and Sisse Marie in “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

The good news is that “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” knows that it’s a silly and vulgar comedy. The bad news is that this movie fails miserably at being funny. This idiotic film also has rampant sexism and thinks that black people calling each other the “n” word is automatically supposed to make people laugh. It’s just a pathetic excuse for a comedy film.

“The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” is the follow-up to the 2016 horror comedy “Meet the Blacks,” both directed and co-written by Deon Taylor, a filmmaker who’s known for churning out low-quality movies with predominantly African American casts. In “Meet the Blacks,” which Taylor co-wrote with Nicole DeMasi, the Black family relocated from Chicago to Beverly Hills, California, where they encountered horror that was ripped off directly from 2013’s “The Purge,” a movie about a United States where all crime is legal, for a designated 12-hour period one day out of the year.

In “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2,” which Taylor co-wrote with Corey Harrell, the Black family is now in a horror scenario that’s a direct ripoff of the 1985 movie “Fright Night.” Family patriarch Carl Black (played by Mike Epps) and his goofy cousin Cronut (played by Lil Duval), a bachelor who lives in Carl’s backyard, begin to suspect that their new next-door neighbor is a vampire, but no one believes them at first. The other members of the Black family are Carl’s wife Lorena (played by Zulay Henao); their college-age daughter Allie (played by Bresha Webb); and their underage teen son Carl Jr. (played by Alex Henderson). Allie and Carl Jr. are Carl’s kids from a previous marriage.

Carl has a shady past as a thief. As seen in “Meet the Blacks,” he’s been trying to leave his criminal life behind. In the beginning of “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2,” it’s mentioned that Carl wrote a best-selling non-fiction book about the horror he experienced that was shown in the “Meet the Blacks” movie. However, irresponsible Carl blew all the money he made from the book, and the family has now been forced to downsize to a smaller home in Atlanta. Carl is currently unemployed, while Lorena is the family’s breadwinner—and she’s very unhappy that she has to carry all the financial weight for the family.

Meanwhile, Cronut (who is also unemployed) lives in an oversized camper in the family’s backyard. It’s a promotional camper that’s left over from a book tour that Carl did, and it still has images of Carl and the book emblazoned on the sides of the camper. Carl has some hard feelings toward Cronut, because Cronut talked Carl into some bad business deals that led to Carl losing his money.

The family’s financial problems have resulted in Allie dropping out of college, because Carl wrote a tuition check that bounced. Allie is dating a disabled man, who’s about the same age as Allie, named Freezee (played by Andrew Bachelor, also known as King Bach), who uses arm braces in order to walk. Carl is very prejudiced against Freezee because Carl doesn’t want Allie to date a disabled man. Carl gets even more upset when Allie says she wants to move away and live with Freezee.

Cronut is immediately suspicious of the new neighbor Dr. Mamuwalde (played by Katt Williams, who’s styled to look like Leon Russell from the 1970s) because Dr. Mamuwalde moved into the house next door well past midnight, and the only activity in the house seems to happen at night. During the first house party that Dr. Mamuwalde has at his home, it looks like a swingers party is going on in the backyard. Dr. Mamuwalde also seems to be avoiding meeting his new neighbors.

When Dr. Mamuwalde surfaces, he is almost always seen with two scantily clad women named Salt (played by Sisse Marie) and Pepper (played by Shamea Morton), who are both dressed in lingerie and are mute for most of the movie. Dr. Mamuwalde has a creepy servant named Monty (played by Cory Zooman Miller), who gives vague answers about Dr. Mamuwalde when nosy Cronut goes over to pay a visit. Carl eventually encounters Monty too, and Carl also thinks that something unusual is going on at Dr. Mamuwalde’s house.

At first, Carl thinks Cronut has a wild imagination about Dr. Mamuwalde being a vampire. Carl thinks that Dr. Mamuwalde is probably a pimp. It turns out that Dr. Mamuwalde is a vampire and a pimp. Later in the movie, Dr. Mamuwalde kidnaps Lorena and Allie because he wants them to be his sex slaves. In a lowbrow comedy like this, would you expect anything else?

Other neighbors who are in this story are wide-eyed and fearful Rico (played by Tyrin Turner), who disappears and has a fate that’s very easy to predict; tough guy Hugo (played by Danny Trejo), who doesn’t say much, but he observes more than he lets on to other people; and married couple Clive (played by Gary Owen) and Bunny (played by Jena Frumes), who are both completely useless to the movie’s plot. Owen was in “Meet the Blacks,” but playing a different character named Larry. In “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2,” Owen plays the token white guy who’s supposed to be racist.

Clive is a military veteran who uses a wheelchair and is a proud supporter of Donald Trump. (Clive wears a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, in case it wasn’t clear what his politics are.) Meanwhile, Bunny’s only purpose in the movie is to look like a basic Instagram model—she wears a bikini top and Daisy Duke cutoff shorts that leave little to the imagination—so that Carl and some other men can ogle her.

In fact, all of the women with significant speaking roles in the movie are exploited as sex objects at some point. Mother and daughter Lorena and Allie are both stripped down to their underwear in separate scenes. Not surprisingly, they’re wearing the type of lingerie that makes it look like they’re trying to be like Victoria’s Secret models.

Meanwhile, the men are fully clothed, except for one not-very-funny scene where a shirtless Cronut tries to seduce Bunny. There’s also a disgusting incest joke where Cronut suggests to his second cousin Allie that they have sex. He tells her that because they’re second cousins, it would be legal for them to have sex in Georgia. Not surprisingly, a repulsed Allie says no to Cronut’s sexual come-on.

Snoop Dogg has a small role, portraying himself as a TV talk show host who interviewed Carl in the past when Carl was promoting his book. One day, when a depressed Carl is at home, watching TV, and feeling sorry for himself, he sees an African man named Mr. Wooky (played by Michael Blackson) being interviewed on the show. Mr. Wooky claims to be a supernatural expert who can get rid of ghosts, vampires and other unwanted paranormal entities. Guess who Carl ends up hiring to get rid of the vampire next door?

All the so-called “jokes” in the movie are forgettable, and most are awful. Many of the jokes are about perpetuating the despicable and negative stereotype that black men hate themselves and don’t respect women. The visual effects are cheap-looking and not scary at all.

And all of the cast members are unremarkable in their roles, although Williams seems to be having some fun with his campy Dr. Mamuwalde character. Carl Jr. is barely in the movie; his total screen time is about five minutes. Rick Ross has a cameo as Mr. Saturday Night, who’s enlisted to help Carl and Cronut battle Dr. Mamuwalde. Mr. Saturday Night is another unnecessary character that was created just so the filmmakers could put hip-hop star Ross in the movie.

And a mid-credits scene announces the third movie in this series will be called “Chapter 3: The Ghost Squad,” starring Carl, Cronut, Mr. Wooky, Snoop Dogg and Hugo as the Ghetto Ghostbusters. Whether are not this “Ghost Squad” movie is really going to happen, you’ve been warned.

Lionsgate released “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” in select U.S. cinemas on June 11, 2021. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on July 9, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on August 10, 2021.

Review: ‘A Fall From Grace,’ starring Crystal Fox, Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb, Mehcad Brooks and Cicely Tyson

January 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Donovan Christie Jr., Tyler Perry, Bresha Webb and Crystal Fox in "A Fall From Grace"
Donovan Christie Jr., Tyler Perry, Bresha Webb and Crystal Fox in “A Fall From Grace” (Photo by Charles Bergmann/Netflix)

“A Fall From Grace”

Directed by Tyler Perry

Culture Representation: Set in the fictional American city of Holloway, “A Fall From Grace” has predominantly black middle-class characters who are connected in some way to a murder mystery case.

Culture Clash: The characters have conflicts over the guilt or innocence of a woman accused of murder.

Culture Audience: “A Fall From Grace” will appeal primarily to fans of Tyler Perry and low-budget, melodramatic “women in peril” movies.

Crystal Fox and Mehcad Brooks in “A Fall From Grace” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

If you’re watching a Tyler Perry drama, here are three things you can expect to happen:

(1) A husband or boyfriend will cheat on his wife or girlfriend.
(2) The woman will find out about the infidelity.
(3) She not only gets mad, she also gets even.

The legal mystery “A Fall From Grace” (written and directed by Perry) falls right in line with this formula, with plenty of melodramatic and implausible moments, as well as a few touches of humor. (“A Fall From Grace” is definitely for mature audiences, since there’s partial nudity, adult language and very bloody violence.) Perry’s dramas overall are much more interesting than his comedies, but there’s such a similarity to the narratives of Perry’s dramas that they’re very much like passing by a car wreck: You know what you’re probably going to see is messy and tragic, but sometimes you’re compelled to take a look anyway.

To his credit, Perry gives a lot of work to black actors and actresses, since his movies and TV shows have predominantly black casts. It’s just too bad that he can’t come up with more original scripts that don’t have the same, tired concept that the central character (who’s usually an African American woman) is stressed-out and unhappy because of a man. She’s either dealing with a lying cheater, or she’s having problems finding a good man who won’t cheat on her, because she was treated badly by a cheater in her previous relationship.

In “A Fall From Grace,” the troubled woman is Grace Waters (played by Crystal Fox), a mid-level bank employee in her 50s who’s confessed to bludgeoning to death her much-younger second husband, Shannon DeLong (played by Mehcad Brooks), who was married to Grace for less than a year. The crime is shocking to people who know Grace, because she has a mild-mannered and passive personality. Grace’s 26-year-old attorney is public defender Jasmine Bryant (played by Bresha Webb), who’s reluctant to take the case because she’s eager to have her first experience going to trial. Her demanding boss Roy (played by Perry) thinks a trial isn’t necessary, since Grace has confessed to first-degree murder and wants to plead guilty.

As Roy explains to Jasmine, he put her on the case because Jasmine is an excellent negotiator of plea bargains, and he’s training her to do what public defenders usually do: make plea deals for almost all of their clients. But there’s another reason why Jasmine doesn’t want to take the case: As she privately tells her loyal and supportive husband, Jordan (played by Matthew Law), who’s a police officer for the city, she’s become disillusioned by representing so many people she thinks are guilty. Jasmine is seriously thinking about leaving her budding law career to start over in a new profession, but Jordan encourages her not to give up so easily.

Because Grace’s case is very high-profile in the local news, Jasmine is also feeling the pressure of getting the right deal for Grace. The maximum penalty for pleading guilty will be life without parole, but Jasmine is hoping that Grace (who has no previous arrest record) will get a plea bargain of 15 years with the possibility of parole. If Grace goes to trial, she risks getting the death penalty if she’s found guilty. Jasmine meets with a disheveled and dejected Grace in jail, and something about their meeting seems “off” to Jasmine—Grace’s only request for the deal is that she’s sent to a prison that’s near where her grandchildren live. Jasmine begins to wonder if Grace is really not guilty and possibly covering up for someone else.

Jasmine’s doubt about Grace’s guilt grows even more when she looks at the crime-scene photos, and sees that the blood patterns don’t match the patterns of someone who’s supposedly lost blood from a blow to the head. She shows the evidence to Roy, who orders her to make a plea deal and not bring the case to trial. Jasmine decides to investigate further anyway, knowing that she could end up getting fired for insubordination.

Jasmine finds herself meeting with one of Grace’s close friends named Sarah (played by Phylicia Rashad), who runs a boarding house for retired women. (Cicely Tyson has a cameo as one of the residents. She’s literally in the movie for less than 10 minutes.) Sarah tells Jasmine that she’s been friends with Grace for about six years.

In a flashback, viewers see Sarah and Grace talking after attending the wedding of Grace’s ex-husband, who left her for his much-younger secretary, whom he ended up marrying. Grace and her ex-husband (who have a married adult son together) had a divorce where Grace was willing to give up their house to him because she wanted to avoid any nasty legal battles. Grace has convinced herself that she’ll never fall in love again, but Sarah encourages her to get out of the house more and start dating again. Sarah suggests that Grace meet new people by going to an upcoming gallery event that will be the opening of a new photo exhibit.

While Grace is at the gallery exhibit, which features Ethiopian tribe photos taken by Shannon DeLong, she is approached by a hunky man who’s about 20 years younger than Grace. He strikes up a conversation with Grace and asks her what she thinks of the photos. Grace says that she’s very impressed with the photos.

She also tells the man that she thinks Shannon is probably an African woman, because the people in the photos look like they trusted the photographer. While they’re talking and as the man openly flirts with her, the gallery owner makes a speech to introduce Shannon DeLong. And lo and behold, to Grace’s surprise (but not to anyone else watching this who could easily guess who this mystery man is), the charming man whom she was talking to is none other than Shannon DeLong.

The next day, Shannon sends Grace some roses and one of his photos. Grace is curious and a little taken aback at his attempts to romance her because she doesn’t think she’s attractive enough for a man as good-looking and young as Shannon is. At first, she plays hard to get, but she eventually agrees to go out on a date with him.

While on the date, she asks him point-blank: “Why me?” Shannon replies, “Shouldn’t the question be, ‘Why not you?'” They end up having a whirlwind, chaste romance (Grace is religious and won’t sleep with him as long as they’re not married) that leads to Shannon proposing, and then they get married.

But how well does Grace really know her new husband? He starts to show a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality that can flip on a moment’s notice. When Grace overhears him talking on the phone to someone she doesn’t know, and she asks him who he’s talking to, he sneers at her in a menacing tone: “Grace, there are two things I don’t like: (1) being checked up on and (2) being questioned.” Grace finds out the hard way how much of a mistake it was to marry Shannon.

Grace catches him in their bedroom having sex with another woman. Grace also gets fired for embezzlement, and she finds out that Shannon committed the crime by stealing her identity. (This isn’t spoiler information, since it’s in the movie’s trailer.)

When they’re alone together, Shannon openly mocks Grace because he’s sure he can get away with what he did. Things get very ugly and bloody, with Grace whacking him repeatedly with a baseball bat, like someone fighting zombies in “The Walking Dead,” and it’s all resulted in Grace facing prison time for Shannon’s murder.

But wait. This wouldn’t be a Tyler Perry movie without something ludicrous about the plot. It turns out that Shannon’s body was never found. (This detail is also revealed in the movie’s trailer.) Presumably, the district attorney felt there was enough blood evidence to suggest that Shannon is dead, but even that’s a stretch of the imagination.

In real life, prosecution of a murder case, even with a confession, rarely happens without a body (or vital body parts, such as a skull or torso), in order for a medical examiner to determine the cause of death. In the rare instances when someone is charged with murder without a body being found, several years have passed after the allegedly murdered person has been declared missing. Perry is assuming that most people watching this movie won’t know all of that, because the point of having a missing body in this murder mystery is to make viewers wonder if Shannon is really dead.

But that opens up a whole other set of questions: Why did Grace confess in the first place if there was no body found? If Shannon isn’t dead, shouldn’t Grace still be in trouble for attempted murder? And who got rid of the body if he’s dead? Viewers won’t necessarily get the answers to these questions during the course of the movie, as Grace changes her mind about pleading guilty, and the case goes to trial.

The courtroom scenes are predictably over-the-top, but at least they’re more realistic than the bumbling cop scenes with Jasmine’s husband Jordan. In one scene, Jordan is handcuffing someone in an arrest on the street, and then when Jordan suddenly gets important information about Grace’s case, he drives off and leaves the suspect (still handcuffed) out on the street. Would it have been so hard to put the suspect in the back of the squad car instead of leaving him out on the street so he could run away? And in another scene that happens in the beginning of the movie, Jordan unsuccessfully tries to prevent a suicidal elderly woman from jumping off the roof of her house. Apparently, this city must be seriously lacking in police officers, since Jordan doesn’t have any other cop to back him up in this emergency scene.

The suicide scene at the beginning of the movie is explained at the end of the movie, which has a twist that’s kind of crazy. But people should know by now that Perry loves to churn out these soapy, pulpy dramas where people can soak up his brand of cheap thrills. Dive right on in, if that’s your thing.

Netflix premiered “A Fall From Grace” on January 17, 2020.

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