HAUNT / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SCOTT BECK, BRYAN WOODS /STARRING: KATIE STEVENS, WILL BRITTAIN, ANDREW CALDWELL / RELEASE DATE: TBC
It has been a while since the line ‘from producer Eli Roth’ had any meaning. The utterly mediocre The Last Exorcism, Part II, the unnecessary Cabin Fever remake and the very problematic Aftershock all had Roth’s involvement and weren’t any better for it. Imagine our surprise when Haunt turned out to be good. It could have used some polishing, but it’s a meat-and-potatoes delight. Effective crescendo, solid jump scares and ghastly practical effects. All this, without deviating from the ‘Final Girl’ formula.
At the center of Haunt is Harper (Stevens). Fresh out of an abusive relationship, Harper reluctantly agrees to a night out with her sorority sisters. It’s Halloween after all. When the bar scene fails to deliver, the girls, plus a couple of male acquaintances, agree to visit an ‘extreme’ haunted house. Like with most of this makeshifts attractions, the decorations are chintzy and the scares lame. But the moment the group begins to splinter, the hapless visitors’ perception of what’s real and what’s staged begins to crack.
Even though Haunt hints at toxic masculinity as the source of the carnage, it soon settles for scary clowns as culprits. While the unfolding of the film follows traditional patterns (you can roughly tell the order the youths will meet their grisly demise), it does it with certain panache: The kills are original and the would-be victims are far from sitting ducks. Even better, the villains aren’t given any motivation. They’re just meanies.
The flow of the film is more problematic. Even though in the beginning the audience has an idea of the geography of the house, towards the end that concern seems to be abandoned and people start popping up all over the place out of narrative expediency. In a couple of occasions, it seems some gory sequences have been trimmed probably for rating purposes. Whatever the reason, expect some choppiness.
Given that Halloween is upon us, Haunt is a good alternative for those tired of re-watching the same movies year after year. It won’t linger, but gets the job done.