The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 Synopsis: When best-selling author Carl Black (Mike Epps) moves his family back to his childhood home, he must team up with oddball neighbors to do battle with a pimp (Katt Williams), who may or may not be an actual vampire.
The laugh-out-loud joys of theatrical comedies are a dying breed, as more studios opt for the easy-going appeals of streaming services (even stars like Kevin Hart and Melissa McCarthy debut on streaming now). Thankfully, versatile writer/director Deon Taylor looks to revive the storied tradition with The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2. His long-awaited sequel to the 2016 cult hit (the follow-up was originally scheduled for an October 2019 release) switches up the Purge spoof formula for a playful revamp of campy 70’s horror.
For the most part, this change-of-pace is a welcomed one. While The House Next Door lacks the original’s articulate social implications (“The Purge” concept confronted the judgemental spotlight following black Americans), Taylor’s spirited sequel generates an uproarious crowd-pleasing experience chock full of zany gags and lampooning laughs.
Taylor and co-screenwriter Corey Harrell intelligently rely upon their talented ensemble cast. Mike Epps and Lil Duval continue to draw big laughs as antagonistic cousins, with Epps sharp, free-flowing improvisation cleverly skewering horror situations and Duval’s light-hearted buffoonery. With the addition of Katt Willaims as the villainess vampire pimp Dr. Mamuwalde, the film conjures new layers of comedic intrigue. Willaims’ self-assured presence and famed comedic bite create a fitting clash to Epps’ high-energy delivery, keeping audiences on their toes as the two endure a humorous battle of wills and minds. A loaded ensemble of personable talents (Danny Trejo, Michael Blackson, Andrew Bachelor, and “The Boss” Rick Ross) also add their distinct comedic sparkle to the fun-loving romp.
The House Next Door feels far more assured than its predecessor. By leaning into the low-rent appeals of old-school horror vehicles like Fright Night and Blacula, Taylor creates a loving hommage to aesthetics of yesteryear. Foggy nighttime visuals and ingenious practical effects work to establish a makeshift sensibility oozing with sincerity and thoughtful craftsmanship. Not only is it a joy to see this campy veneer revitalized, but Taylor also infuses the playful sensibility with his distinctly modern comedic lens. The old-school vs. new wave dynamic sharpens both perspectives as the screenplay explores ample opportunities for clever lampooning and zeitgeist insights.
Still, The House Next Door endures its fair share of unevenness. For every couple of gags that work, the script presents a few dated barbs desperately in need of modern revitalization. I will always credit writers for taking big swings with their comedic material, but the film’s wide net of topics isn’t always skewered with the same sharp perspective. As a fan of Taylor’s diverse body of work (few can shift genres with such ease), I also can’t help missing the substantive throughlines integrated into his films. Taylor often doesn’t get credit for making populist entertainment with a social edge, yet that element feels noticeably absent in this horror sequel.
Issues aside, The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 delivers on its signature brand of crass comedic setpieces. I am always happy to see Taylor’s indie spirit presented on the big screen, and I would be delighted to see a potential third entry in the franchise.
The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 is now playing in theaters nationwide.
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