Movie Review - Haunt

Movie Review - Haunt

Mac Carter's 2014 release, Haunt, is a rare kind of movie: Whereas it doesn't manage to cover any new ground, the direction and the cast make for a pleasantly surprising viewing experience. You've literally seen every trick this movie has to offer in other films, and yet somehow I still found it to be enjoyable. Which is a testament to the fact that sometimes all a horror movie really needs to be is entertaining. 

Evan (Harrison Gilbertson) and his family move into an old house, unaware of it's history.  One night while walking alone, he meets the girl who lives in the house across the woods from his, Sam (Liana Liberato). Clearly the victim of a unhappy home life, Evan reaches out to her, only to be rebuked. Though she sneaks into his bed later that night having no where else to turn, and the two are immediately bonded in an almost instantaneous intimacy that is made palpable by the charismatic performances of the leading actors. When Evan begins to experience paranormal occurrences he enlists her help to find answers. She suggests they use and old machine, left by some previous owner, whose sole purpose is to contact the dead. Like an electromagnetic ouija board. But after making contact with something, it begins a series of increasingly intense supernatural events throughout the house. 

I won't go ruining all of the surprises for you, though to call them 'surprises' is quite a stretch. The ghost story here is just about as derivative as it gets. But the story gets a boost from not only the two leading actors, but also a strong supporting cast including Ione Skye and the phenomenal Jacki Weaver in a subtly chilling performance. The layered nuances of the teens relationship being as prevalent as the ghost story is another thing that keeps the film interesting and the pace brisk. I think Carter does a great job of letting the story tell itself. He seems to have strong potential, as his style seems to elevate what could have been a completely ho-hum haunted house movie into something more entertaining entirely. So, as I said, there are some things that make this worth recommending. 

All that being said, there are quite a few drawbacks as well. I traditionally abhor the use of CGI in horror films because it usually looks ultra corny and this film is no exception. The ghosts vary between mildly creepy and just plain cartoony, and never really provide any significant scares. In fact, aside from a few good jumpy moments, there aren't really any genuine scares. I have to wonder if this was a decision made by the director of by the studio, because it doesn't seem to match his other directing choices throughout. 

Haunt is on VOD now and will be given a limited theatrical release before heading to DVD. If you like watching horror movies as much as I do, you learn to appreciate that not all horror films have to be brilliantly written, flawlessly produced, or even completely original to be fun.  If you do get a chance to see it, I would recommend you do. Though you may want to wait for Redbox or Netflix. Cheers.

Grade C+.

-Leo Francis