Give A.M.C.’s streaming service Shudder this: When they go in on an exclusive, they go all in, and Haunt is a good example of the pedigree they’re aiming for. The film was produced by Eli Roth, and written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the duo behind last year’s surprise box-office hit, A Quiet Place. That is a setup for something above the norm, though it starts off shaky.
Haunt’s plot is well worn. A group of friends tracks down an extreme haunted house, which is supposed to be, well, extreme. Not much else is revealed to the teens, other than the proceeds will go to Red Cross. It will come as no surprise that things soon turn deadly, and the house’s inhabitants are not what they seem. That’s really the gist of it, and when I initially read the movie’s description, I thought it was one I had already watched. (I cannot for the life of me think of the name of the one I thought it was, but I’d recommend it over Haunt at any rate. Update! It was Circus Kane.) Derivative movies can still be fun, and I will give Haunt this: It’s an entertaining ride if nothing else.
Katie Stevens – you may know her from the entertaining M.T.V. show, Faking It – leads a solid cast that doesn’t get a whole lot to work with. Heroine Harper has a bit of a Scooby-Doo edge to her (Thelma in particular), and she has, for reasons unknown, a
bad feeling about the haunted house from the get-go. It makes little sense, as the house initially seems run-of-the-mill. (Though, and this is never actually mentioned, the kids probably should have figured out something was up when they didn’t pay for admittance. What proceeds is Red Cross supposed to receive?)
As the movie progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the house is, indeed, designed to kill its guests, and a welcomed twist to the formula is introduced. One of the employees is seemingly taken by surprise that bad stuff is happening, and he sets out to help the kids. Or does he? I think you know the answer.
The story goes downhill fairly rapidly, and Haunt flirts not only with becoming a standard haunted house film but also with mid-noughties teen fare extravaganzas. I wouldn’t have been shocked to see a surprise walk-on from Paris Hilton.
On the plus side, Haunt has slick production values, and looks quite nice, with deeply saturated colors. The soundtrack is great. Nothing about the movie seems cheap, it just seems a bit lazy.
In the end, what is really odd about Haunt is that it feels like it at some point was supposed to be about something; I just don’t know what that something was. On the one hand there are suggestions that domestic violence is its prevalent theme, yet it sort of just comes and goes and is never tackled in any meaningful way. That gives Haunt an unbecoming exploitative touch.
On the other hand, there are also hints of the lore of
earning your faces, but that, too, is never touched upon enough to make it understandable.
Haunt is not the home-run many felt A Quiet Place was, but if you already subscribe to Shudder, it’s worth a watch on a rainy afternoon. Just don’t expect greatness.
Likely the best name ever
One of the stunt doubles goes by Remington Steele, which is an impossibly cool moniker.