Haunted houses are a staple of the Halloween season. You walk through creepy corridors and spooky rooms while actors jump out at you and try their best to creep you out. Within the last few years the "extreme" haunted houses have emerged, requiring participants to sign a waiver before entering. Simply the very nature of their existence opens the door for horror movies set in these types of attractions. Last year it was Hellfest, this year it's Haunt. This movie was recommended to me by fellow MRC member Shane Cronican of The Man Corner, and unlike Shane, when I'm recommended a movie to watch I actually watch it as soon as I can instead of waiting 9 months (for those of you who don't know, that's how long it took Shane to finally get around to watching Train to Busan after I had recommended it to him.) So, does Haunt offer enough thrills and chills to be worth the recommendation? Let's jump into it and, as always, spoilers ahead.
Haunt was written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan woods, best known for writing the screenplay for A Quiet Place. Starring Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alisa McClain, and Andrew Caldwell, Haunt is about a group of friends who go to an extreme haunted house on Halloween and - surprise - it turns out to be real. Being a big fan of A Quiet Place I was pretty much immediately interested once I learned that it was the same writers. Haunt also sits fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with with 69% approval from critics and a whopping 100% approval from audiences! I think that might be the first time we've covered a movie on 2Spooky with a 100% approval from anybody! At this point I had pretty high hopes going in, but did it deliver?
The first thing to note about these kinds of movies is that they're almost 100% predictable, so the movie more than likely won't be earning any bonus points for an original story. That being said, it's all about the tension, the atmosphere, and most importantly, the kills. This is where I am going to throw up some big props to Haunt early, because the atmosphere is pretty great throughout. The haunted house is basically a maze, but the directors make sure that you know where the characters are in the maze at all times so it's never confusing. The movie is also pretty tense for most of the run time. It can be difficult to have tension that feels natural in these kinds of movies, because the cliche in horror films is that the characters are constantly making obviously dumb decisions to manufacture tension. Haunt thankfully steers clear of that for the most part. There are still a couple of decisions that made me go "Seriously? You should know better" but overall the characters behaved in a pretty logical and believable way. The kills were grounded in reality as well. There are no elaborate death traps or overly gory kills, but the movie is still plenty violent. My favorite kill of the movie (which to be fair is also probably the kill that makes the least amount of sense) involves one of the killers taking a hammer and basically using it to rip the front of a guy's face off by sticking the claw of the hammer in his mouth and pulling upwards. Major credit again to the directors because they never really cut away from any of the violence and that only adds to the tension.
Unfortunately, the gruesomeness of the movie isn't quite enough to distract you from the underlying blandness. None of the performances stand out as anything beyond serviceable and the killers, while intimidating and super creepy looking once their masks come off, don't really have a clear motivation. There aren't any context clues like in Hellfest to indicate that this kind of thing has happened before, and there's no real reason behind their actions other than to kill some kids. Not to mention there's this whole thing with the kids' cell phones where the killers try to go through them and find their information but we don't really know why. We also don't know why they look the way that they do under the masks. To be fair I don't really need an explanation for that, but their faces are all so deformed I would have at least liked some dialogue about it. Did they escape from the circus? Were they experimented on? We literally don't know. Those are just a few things that I wish the movie took the time to either flesh out or explain more that would have added to the experience for me. Speaking of things that could have been fleshed out more, let's talk about the ending to this movie. So our final girl Harper (and in a surprising twist, final boy Nathan) escape the haunt only for the clown who I guess is the only killer that didn't die at the haunt to show up at Harper's childhood home instead of at her sorority house because I don't know why. And Harper somehow knew he would show up because she traps the house and then kills him? It doesn't really make a whole lot of sense and that cheapens the cathartic ending that I think they were going for.
Overall, I did like Haunt. It was a fun take on the slasher genre and aside from just a couple of things, a very well made movie. But you all know how this goes by now. We're at the part of the review where I ask if you've seen Haunt, what you thought of it, and to tell me in the comments. So, you know, go do those things.