Directed and written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods and starring Katie Stevens, Lauryn Alisa-McClain, Will Brittain, and Andrew Caldwell, Haunt tells the story of a costumed gang of college friends who decide to end their Halloween night by going to an “extreme” haunt in lieu of horror movies and food. But soon after they arrive, sign the waivers, and the scares begin to increase in menace do they understand what kind of torture they really agreed to.
Four minutes in and Night of the Living Dead is playing on an outdated television in a dorm room. First thoughts conclude that this is going to be just another teen slasher- but something happens. There’s a girl in the room covering a bruise on her face. She’s looking at a slew of frantic text messages and lying to her friends about “the boy situation.” She looks defeated already. Then she watches Judith O’Dea shrilly and unequivocally proclaim in black and white, “He grabbed me. He grabbed me!” and we see immediately within that elegant juxtaposition Haunt is going to be a movie about more than one kind of survival.
Haunt gives viewers what so many other haunted house films fail to. There’s a backbone of a story with our lead character, Harper, who is dealing with an abusive relationship cycle. There’s a genuine sense of panic issued throughout the attraction that organically builds as the characters progress through the freakish rooms and suffocating tunnels. You care about these characters- they have ties to an outside world far away from the nightmare they’ve gotten themselves into. You’re rooting for them and they’re not the Friday night fodder audiences are accustomed to seeing in slashers. They’re in a realistic setting (let’s face it, this type of seasonal attraction could exist on any given Midwest country road) and acting like real people. The film feels authentic and perhaps that’s its biggest accomplishment.
Despite the name Roth being attached to the project, this is not a blood bath. Instead, the horror aspect is executed by means of great suspense and hostility with mad dashes of violence. Haunt was exciting to watch and not just “look at.” You’re a part of the experience, not an outsider looking in stealing glances at your phone. The film was also a bonafide Halloween-horror flick. The set design was colored black and orange enough to convince anybody that the events were truly unfolding in October.
Haunt was carefully crafted by a team that cherishes “streamlined B-movies” and looks fondly back on their own local haunt experiences as kids. The film was shot in an abandoned dairy farm-turned-functioning-haunt and it doesn’t hurt that filming took place during Halloween, either. Because of all these elements, a sense of magic halos around Haunt and it would be an honest shame if it were to fall under the radar.
It captures the underlying danger of the holiday and the revels associated with it while unmasking a story of survival and the defiance of seemingly predetermined fate. Haunt is an excellent choice for your October viewing list or any time for all you year-round ghouls.
Haunt is now available on VOD services and is anticipating a physical release in October.