You’ll likely recognize the names and works of the people behind Haunt. Eli Roth produced the film. It was written and directed by the team of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who previously wrote A Quiet Place. Haunt joins a small but growing subgenre of horror focusing on so-called extreme haunts. Where A Quiet Place aimed high for a prestige piece, Haunt offers a gritty slasher throwback, with a touch of The Collector.
The story takes place on Halloween night. Harper (Katie Stevens) is dealing with the fallout of a bad relationship and an abusive boyfriend. Her friend Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain) convinces her that she needs a night out. The two head to a bar, and soon meet up with Nathan (Will Brittain) and Evan (Andrew Caldwell, dressed as one segment of a Human Centipede).
Before long, Angela (Shazi Raja) and Mallory (Schuyler Helford) round out the group. When the bar proves to be a bust, our protagonists head for the titular haunt. The attraction’s biggest selling point is that it preys on your deepest fears. The group arrives at the haunt, and before proceeding they have to hand over their cell phones.
As the friends make their way through the earlier portions of the haunted house, Beck and Woods do an admirable job of ramping up the tension. One of these scenes, involving a hot poker, caught me by surprise with a jaw-dropping bit of nastiness. Aspects of the haunt are reminiscent of the traps left for Jigsaw’s victims. Because Haunt remains straight-forward and relatively simple, it never requires the same suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy some of the latter Saw films.
Haunt is most effective during its reveals of the killers, who wear distinctive masks (a ghost, a devil, a witch, and a clown). They’re equally frightening whether in disguise or once they’ve revealed themselves. The antagonists leave a lasting impression, but also lingering questions that aren’t answered by the movie. I was left wanting to know more about the killers and their motivations. This could be seen as a pro or a con, depending on your inclinations.
The directors have stated that Haunt was inspired by their love of B-movies and their experiences visiting local haunts as teenagers in Iowa. Both of these inspirations reveal themselves through the film, and will garner a large amount of goodwill with certain viewers. Haunt was their attempt to show that horror doesn’t need to be elevated. If you enjoyed movies from the slasher heyday like The Funhouse, or modern efforts like The Houses October Built and Extremity, there’s a good chance you’ll find Haunt appealing. It does exactly what it sets out to do – offer effective B-movie chills for the Halloween season.
Haunt scares its way into theaters and onto digital and on demand Friday, September 13th.
Slasher Throwback ‘Haunt’ Gets a Jump on the Halloween Season [Review]
Haunt‘s memorable villains and creator pedigree make it a solid entry in its subgenre, but its straight-forward story may leave some viewers wanting more.