Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the duo who penned last year’s breakout hit A Quiet Place, have returned with a new movie, Haunt. This time around, they’re in the director’s chair(s) as well, for this surprising little haunted house slasher flick. While this certainly isn’t as big or as flashy as the movie that put them on the map, this serves as a nice, twisted surprise heading into the Halloween season.
Haunt centers on a group of friends led by the mysterious and quiet Harper (Katie Stevens). On Halloween, this unlikely group makes their way to an extreme haunted house off the beaten path that promises to feed on their darkest fears. As the group reluctantly delves further and further into this warehouse of nightmares, things turn deadly and they must try to escape with their lives, or risk being murdered by the creepy proprietors of this perverse attraction.
Right up top, it should be noted that any comparison to A Quiet Place would be unhelpful and unfair. This is a very different movie. It’s less an attempt at reinvention as it is an homage to what one might consider an 80s horror popcorn flick. Think upper-tier B-movie. Think Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse with some John Carpenter thrown in the mix, then ratchet up the blood. After all, Eli Roth is a producer on this flick and his sensibilities shine through. This is a simple, relatively straightforward haunted house movie, minus any real supernatural elements.
The camp that Beck and Woods manage to capture feels deliberate. Not, as is often the case with smaller horror movies, a failure of the filmmaking. This gives off the vibe of an R-rated, feature-length episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? for adults. That sort of thing really works for me personally. Mileage may vary on that, depending on the viewer. Haunt feels most akin to something like The Strangers, only taking place in an attraction one visits willingly, as opposed to having masked creeps surprise someone at their home.
The thing about this movie, when compared to something a bit more ambitious and/or farfetched, is that this feels very possible, which adds to the real terror of it all. This could happen. It’s terribly unlikely, but not impossible in the world we live in. The movie also throws in just about every real fear one could have. Spiders, clowns, coffins, tight spaces, sharp objects, mental trauma. It’s all there. It also happens to be quite gruesome. It’s sadistic in its aimless and random violence. Though, it doesn’t deal in graphic excess in the way something like House of 1000 Corpses does. It’s not shock cinema or torture porn. It’s ugly and violent, yes, but Beck and Woods exercise restraint. They accomplish more with less.
If this flick has anything holding it back, it’s that it takes it’s time to get to the meat. There’s no doubt about it. But, for my money, what’s waiting at the end of that slow-burning fuse is worth the wait. This movie works best on a psychological level; it’s scary to think someone has a reason to kill you. Scarier yet to think you could have been anyone, but just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s what Haunt posits. It doesn’t break the mold, nor does it set out to. This is intended to exist as something comfortable for genre fans. Something familiar. In as much as there will always be room for reinvention in horror, there’s nothing wrong with a new take on a tried and true classic. Haunt arrives in theaters, on demand and on digital on September 13.
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