This time in the HORROR ZONE, I’m recommending Haunt.
Hot on the heels of the…wholly unsatisfying 65, I thought I’d recommend another film from the directorial duo of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods – 2019’s Haunt.
At this point in their careers, the pair had already been nominated for a WGA Award for Best Original Screenplay for their work on A Quiet Place in 2018 and had one directorial effort under their belts with Nightlight. Post-65, the pair have written the screenplay for the upcoming Rob Savage-helmed The Boogeyman (based off a Stephen King short). So, it’s fair to say that, despite mixed results, the pair are firmly entrenched in Team Horror.
Now, onto Haunt. What I WILL say to start this off is that Haunt is not the greatest horror movie you will ever see, but if you are looking for a taut, fun, and, sometimes, brutal horror flick, you’ll find much worse elsewhere – clocking in at the magic ninety-minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
The film follows a group of six teenagers on Halloween who leave a well-populated club (and Thai spider-infused shots, ew) in search of some Samhain shivers and chills. Eventually, they end up off the beaten track at a noticeably unpopulated haunted house attraction, where an imposing person greets them in a clown mask. He is, however, extremely professional as he ensures – silently – that they each sign a waiver in the name of safety. What a guy. As the group enter the haunted house and go further into the attraction, of course, they find out that this isn’t just an innocent family-run business that definitely isn’t full of traps designed to kill them (I mean, it only had one Yelp review guys…)
Haunt doesn’t reinvent the genre and sits comfortably in the category of ‘familiar’, but, sometimes familiar is all you need. The movie feels like a mix of Saw, Escape Room, and Hell House LLC (to name a few) in terms of influence, but it never quite feels like a pure riff on any of them individually.
Crucially, the characters aren’t just a gaggle of jerks. Sure, they’re not particularly memorable or well-developed, but they’re not designed for you to hate. Instead, I found myself hoping that they all survived the horrors they faced especially as, at times, they used their brains in certain situations to try and escape. A positive for not having obnoxious characters? I’d take it. Similarly, the villains exist mainly to look cool – and they do – and to creep you out – which they also do – without ever threatening to let us go too deep within them, and I’m fine with that. Another positive for having serviceable, effective villains? Again, I’d be happy to take the W.
Now, Haunt carries many of the classic genre tropes and leaves many questions unanswered, but Beck and Woods clearly had no intention of answering these from the get-go. Instead, they focus on providing a brisk, well-paced movie that goes back to basics and harkens back to slashers of old. The setting is effectively presented and utilized with each room feeling decidedly different to the previous ones, and the movie does a good job of providing a solid sense of isolation and dread.
If you’re craving the Fall season shivers, or you’re reading this at Halloween, check out Haunt if you’re after a no-frills, effective, and expeditious horror flick.
Haunt is available to stream on Shudder in the UK, and available to stream on Hulu in the US.