23rd Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘Haunt’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alisa McClain, Andrew Caldwell, Shazi Raja, Schuyler Helford | Written and Directed by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

haunt-poster

On Halloween night, a group of college friends travel to a remote country location to enter an extreme haunted house attraction. Extreme because it promises to feed on all their darkest fears. But the night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some nightmares are real and the mischief-makers behind the enterprise are something else altogether.

Films about Halloween-set haunted house attractions are nothing new, so what can a film, by the writers of the well-received, critcally-acclaimed, audience-pleasing A Quiet Place, bring to the genre? If they hype is to be believed, a lot. However in truth it turns out nothing much really. And nothing that wasn’t done a LOT better by The Houses October Built (aka The Houses of Halloween).

The worst thing Haunt does is take a fantastic idea – of the mask-wearing killers of this haunted house attraction hiding scarier overly-modified faces UNDER the already creepty visages – and throws it away. We have a bunch of killers who look different, who look creepy, simply because they’re into body-modification. So, all those people into body-modification in real-life are possible serial killers? It’s a terrible shortcut to making the monsters of this film freakish; and one that actually, if this were any other sub-set of society, would be termed troubling.

What’s worse is there’s ZERO explanation beyond: “Oh look these guys are freakish killers, they look weird so they must be evil”.  It says a lot about filmmakers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods that they didn’t take that into consideration when penning this film. But then maybe they were more concerned about writing A Quiet Place (which they were penning at the same time) – a film that even they claim to have “elevated horror”. Maybe don’t try elevating horror. Maybe embrace horror, embrace everything about it and don’t try to make it “better”. There’s no need. Ever.

In terms of storytelling Haunt uses every cliche and genre trope in the book – almost as if they took inspiration from every haunted house-come-slasher movie ever and put them into a spreadsheet and pulled out set-pieces one by one. This feels like the Weezer version of filmmaking. And for those of you out there have have already seen A Quiet Place you’ll notice that Back and Woods even recycle their own set-pieces here!

If you go into Haunt expecting a fantastic new film from the guys that wrote A Quiet Place you’ll be disappointed. If you go into Haunt expecting a cliched slasher movie set in a haunted house attraction then you might actually enjoy what’s on offer. Just don’t expect the unexpected.

**  2/5

Haunt screened on Friday August 23rd 2019 as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest.

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