Haunt Plot (Simple and Sweet)
In an age of so-scary-you’ll-poo Netflix movies that never live up to their potential and an endless stream of Conjuring side stories, leave it up to Shudder to provide…more scares. A lot of their originals and exclusives tend to have interesting and really good concepts, but suffer due to either lack of budget or mediocre direction and acting.
That’s not to say that these movies and shows aren’t enjoyable – because they are, but they just don’t reach the heights that they could have. Haunt, the most recent film from writer/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place/Spread), unfortunately falls into this pit.
The movie follows a group of six college teenagers as they navigate a haunted house that they stumble upon after leaving a mediocre Halloween party. Things begin to turn dark as each of the friends systematically go missing as horror and death ensue.
The movie does its best with many horror movie motifs, such as the witless teenagers, the scary and silent villains, as well as the atmosphere, but some of these either fall apart as the movie goes on or lead to absolute nothing by the time the movie approaches its end. It’s like having a good meal and then finishing it off with a less than appealing part of the dish – you’re full, but not quite satisfied.
Harper, our main character, is an abused girlfriend thats forced to step out of her shell as she’s confronted with violent psychopaths that end up making her confront her past, allowing her to gain the courage to fight back against them. Her story is strong, but given she’s the only one with a backstory, it can also feel very out of place.
Katie Stevens gives a decent performance, but not a memorable one. It’s easy to believe her character’s story of watching her dad abuse her mother, but we never see her get the closure that the movie notes is so important to her. More on that later.
Bailey, Angela and Mallory, the others in Harper’s friend Quartet operate on varying levels of interest. Bailey (Lauryn McClain) is a good, sassy friend, but disappears halfway through the movie, only to be killed in questionable and needless manner to further torture Harper more. (I guess?)
Angela (Shazi Raja) has that Aubrey Plaza quirkiness to her and she’s a joy to watch for the little she’s on screen. Mallory (Schuyler Helford), aside from her under explored fear of spiders, doesn’t have much going on other than being the party girl. These two are (unsurprisingly) killed first as they don’t provide much to the story.
Then we have Nathan and Evan. Nathan (Will Brittain), is Harper’s potential love interest, but has the personality of a wet towel. Evan (Andrew Caldwell), on the other hand, is fantastic comedic relief, but suffers one of the more gruesome deaths in the movie.
This movie works really well because it doesn’t have too many jump scares, with only two that I can remember. It thrives off of a feeling of uncomfortability and the subtle fear of the unknown because we don’t know what’s under the killers masks.
They move slowly and the music is fitting, almost crawling as they simply just walk around. There are a good number of scenes where the camera holds on the villains or scenery that they’re in to emphasize the shot.
However, when the movie settles into itself, that subtle fear is replaced with camp and many questions when the first killer removes his mask. They’re not a cult, they’re not demons or monsters, they’re just… guys that are heavy into tattoos, scarification and murder.
This intrigued me at first, but as the layers were peeled away, they became less threatening. This became especially true when Harper and Nathan began to whip their asses left and right, utilizing weapons they found or the house traps themselves.
I wish I could say that this movie went above and beyond in this regard, but maybe OKAY would suffice.
It’s difficult to describe just how gory Haunt is or how much it wants to be. Every death scene plays out in a way that the audience is allowed to see about one second of the gory detail, but then it quickly cuts away to something else.
It’s frustrating because the kills are absolutely brutal, but there’s no lingering to feel the weight of it. In one particular scene, Evan is murdered off screen, but his killer then puts the claw part of the hammer into his mouth and rips his jaw open. We’re allowed to partially see it, but a jump cut ruins it soon after.
The ones that do linger are ignored after a short time, such as when Harper steps on a nail or when one of the killers gets a machete to the arm and doesn’t even really acknowledge it when he returns.
Was this an attempt at trying to get a PG-13 rating at some point? I’m unsure.
Haunt isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not particularly great either. It sits in a good middle ground where it could either be background noise or just something to watch with friends. I wouldn’t recommend watching Haunt if you’re expecting something that will have your heart racing, but I won’t say that it’s not worth at least one viewing.
It had so much potential and even looked to be setting up a sequel until its final shot (pun intended). I had so many questions about the killers, why they set up the haunted house and how far did they go, but I doubt there will be an answer.
Hopefully it does well enough to warrant a Haunt 2 if Beck and Woods are up for it.
How did we rate HAUNT? 3 Sodas.
What did you think of Haunt? Leave a comment below.
The Artist formerly known as Tyson Yurai fancies himself a fan of capes, dumb 90s trash and great horrors/thrillers!