Haunt might just single handidly kill off the haunted house/trail business. And likely give me more than a few sleepless nights. Haunt is definitely getting added to my list of all-time favorite horror movies.
Six friends decide to spend Halloween night and stumble onto a haunted trail where the only way to escape is to survive. The characters aren’t the normal stock fodder we’d see in the genre and are not the usual borderline jerks and the nice girl.
Harper (Katie Stevens) has finally ended things with her alcoholic boyfriend. After a little prompting she joins her best friend Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain), pals Angela (Shazi Raja) and Mallory (Schuyler Helford) for a fun Halloween night. While celebrating at their favorite club, they meet up with their friends Nathan (Will Brittain) and Evan (Andrew Caldwell). Not ready to call it a night, the group decides to go in search of a Haunted House and make the worst possible choice.
Annually, I’ll hit up a haunted trail with my pals. There’s always that random moment when someone looks out at the isolated, foggy, poorly lit field and wonder how easily some crazy person could go on a killing spree without getting caught. Haunt takes that inherent fear and makes it a terrifying reality.
Initially the film has a Scream or I Still Know What You Did Last Summer vibe. The crew have sharply defined personalities even if they have the briefest character development. It’s better to call this one The Strangers with a Halloween twist. Like The Strangers there’s not a lot of rhyme or reason why the students have been singled out, which makes the events all the more terrifying. A boogeyman with a motive is one thing, but a complete stranger? That’s so much more freaky.
Its scares are intense and the eventual carnage is yell at the screen inducing. This is the kind of unnerving horror film that’s best watched with an audience. That’s not all that surprising after learning that Haunt was directed/written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the co-writers of A Quiet Place, one of the legit recent unnerving horror thrillers.
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Beck and Woods understand how to manipulate the audience with well-timed jump scares and menacing imagery both from the killers and ominous set pieces. They don’t shy away from the gore and violence, but it’s not so obnoxious that it feels ugly and excessive.
Ryan Samul’s cinematography is key as the lighting further helps to set the fearful mood, but it’s never so murky or dark that it’s hard to see what’s happening. The script even has some depth with Harper’s backstory that ties in to the main story without feeling forced.
Without spoiling much the final act plays out in a very satisfying manner with a pitch perfect ending that wraps everything nicely.
Amazingly, Haunt is getting a very limited theatrical release. That’s surprising given the quality of the film and an obvious target audience who would enjoy the scares come Friday the 13th. Hopefully this will get a larger roll-out in time for Halloween as it’s too good a film to get buried under a sea of mediocre VOD films.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: Broken Road Productions