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Harmless silliness in The House Next Door

Director Deon Taylor reunites the cast of his fifth film, Meet the Blacks, for a sequel in The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 from the Hidden Empire Film Group. After successfully surviving the purge events in the first film, Carl Black (Mike Epps) wrote a successful book but unfortunately blew through all of his money.

Carl's irresponsibility forces his family back to his childhood home in Chicago, where he hopes to continue working on his new book. Naturally, Carl's wife Lorena (Zulay Henao) and daughter Allie (Bresha Webb) are not too keen on moving back. The only ones who support Carl are his cousin Cronut (Lil Duval) and his son Carl Jr. (Alex Henderson). Some of the colorful characters in Carl's community include Trump-supporting war veteran Clive (Gary Owen), the wise & mysterious Hugo (Danny Trejo), and neighborhood watch/snitch Rico (Tyrin Turner).

However, things start to become eerie when the Blacks encounter their mysterious new next-door neighbor Dr. Mamuwalde (Katt Williams). Initially, Carl and Cronut think that Dr. Mamuwalde is a pimp due to numerous women coming in and out of his house. However, before long, Carl learns that the good doctor is a vampire intent on taking Carl's family as his own.

Deon Taylor's last four films Traffik, The Intruder, Black and Blue, and Fatale, were all enjoyable dabbles in the thriller genre, so I was looking forward to seeing the director return to the comedy genre. Taylor wrote the script along with Corey Harrell, and the duo intends to see the film's silly premise go all out for the laughs. That said, I do want to point out that I am not a fan of Mike Epps, nor do I recall any of the jokes from the first film.

However, I was in the mood for a laugh, and given that Epps impressed me with his latest show, The Upshaws, I walked into the sequel with an open mind. In the simplest of terms, The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 is an urban version of the eighties classic Fright Night. The script hits all of the beats from Fright Night. The community falls under Dr. Mamuwalde's charms, no one believing Carl and finally calling help from a vampire hunter.

In this case, the vampire hunter is comedian Michael Blackson who reprises his role as Mr. Wooky from the first film. Blackson's roast of Cronut and Carl were some of the film's funniest moments. Quite honestly, I would not mind a spin-off film focusing on Blackson's character. In the roles of Carl and Cronut, Mike Epps and Lil Duval play well off each other with sharp comedic timing. Now, regarding Katt Williams as our villain, I have been overtly critical of Katt's standup these last few years.

However, he did impress me with his work in 2 Minutes of Fame. As a creature of the night, Katt Williams does a commendable job. Williams uses his natural gift of gab and charisma to avoid turning his character into a caricature. I hope that this role will give the comedian a resurgence because I would not mind seeing Williams in more lead roles.

The rest of the cast all do well with their roles and it is clear that they are having fun. Sans Zulay Henao, the film gives everyone a moment to shine. Even the cameos from Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, Clifton Powell, Haha Davis, and most surprising NBA champion Matt Barnes garnered a chuckle.

In all honesty, The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 will not win any awards, and I am confident I am one of the few critics to give the film a positive review. However, if Deon Taylor's mission was to deliver some laughs for eighty minutes, he accomplished his goal.

Final Grade: B-

The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 is showing in theaters now


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