Haunt, written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, is a new horror-film that officially signals the start of the Halloween season. A fun and refreshing treat to get all the Halloween-loving ghouls in the holiday spirit, this movie does what last year’s Hell Fest wanted to do, but so much more effectively.
The film follows a group of friends who find themselves trapped in a so-called “extreme” haunted house, realizing that what they are experiencing may actually be real. Most people who have ever experienced a haunted house have wondered what would happen if one went wrong, and this movie takes that idea and runs with it, creating a horror movie that is never truly scary but is always entertaining.
Ultimately, the film does adhere a bit too closely to formula to be entirely effective as a horror movie. The first thirty or so minutes are the set-up, then there are forty minutes of mayhem, and a twenty minute finale. Although the finale does lose a bit of steam because it tries to go too big, the movie is for the most part very entertaining thanks to its ingenious premise.
Another reason why the film is so predictable is that the characters are quite archetypal. Since the characters fit their type so closely and don’t deviate from them, their arcs ultimately feel very telegraphed. Additionally, the personalities of the characters make it easy to predict the croaking order of when they are inevitably going to get picked off.
That said, the actors go all in on their performances, giving turns that offer a ton of B-movie fun. The male lead of the movie, Will Brittain is very charismatic and has good chemistry with his co-stars. Andrew Caldwell plays the comedic relief in a way that is very enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, the female characters aren’t given enough to do, but actresses Katie Stevens, Lauryn Alisa McClain, and Shazi Raja make the most of what they were given.
Of course, the film features some pretty gnarly kills that are relatively memorable. The setpieces may not have the same creative wackiness as those of the Saw franchise, but their brutal simplicity is memorable and fun to watch. Towards the beginning of the movie, the gore is less and cut away from more quickly. However, as the film goes on, it gets gorier and gorier at an effective pace.
The production design of the movie is also very impressive. Production designer Austin Gorg does an excellent job of creating the feel of a small-scale independently-operated haunted house (but with a lot more brutality). It is easy to get absorbed into the world of the film because of how accurately it captures the overall feel for which it is aiming.
It is far from perfect, but Haunt is an entertaining little September horror movie. Genre fanatics will certainly be pleased by what this has to offer, with its wacky performances and memorable setpieces.
Haunt hits theaters and VOD on September 13.