‘Do you still want to see my face…’
I love horror films. Always have done, always will. The dark side of humanity obviously has some kind of sinister pull over my very soul that keeps me drinking from the poisoned well of ghouls, ghosts, spirits and murder forever more. But my wife… man, she has taken the whole thing too damn far. Not content with insisting on a ‘creepy birthday’ this last weekend – which involved going for a walk through the woods in the dark – she also implored that we should spend her birthday eve watching a horror film. And so, to Haunt…
A group of college students ditch a Halloween party to take in an isolated haunted house attraction. Learning precisely nothing from years of horror films telling them to do otherwise, the group decides to enter and soon discover that all is not as it seems.
Scott Beck and Bryan Woods are the writing team behind breakout horror smash A Quiet Place, and while Haunt never quite scales those grisly heights, it is still a bloody and enjoyable thrill ride through both a physical haunted house and the metaphorical darkness inherent within the human psyche. A lack of coherent backstory will be frustrating for some, but in many ways, this light sketching allows for the viewer to fill in the gaps – a technique that is nearly always more frightening than anything a movie director could have come up with in the first place.
The acting here is pretty forgettable all round but it is the haunted house itself, and its malevolent inhabitants, that really steal the show. Beck and Woods combine gruesome special effects with inventive puzzles, games and booby traps to ensure that the house almost becomes an additional character. The influences here are clear of course; Saw, Hostel and Hell House LLC are all evoked, but the breathless pacing and constant mayhem ensure that Haunt mostly stays the right side of fresh and invigorating.
At a time when horror has never been more innovative, Haunt feels like kind of a safe movie. But it’s a safe movie that is also never boring, and one that has enough thrills, spills and kills along the way to make the whole thing worthwhile.