WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
On Halloween, some friends encounter an "extreme" haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realisation that some nightmares are real.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
I would have said ‘another Halloween, another average horror movie’, but for some reason, Halloween movie Haunt is popping into our cinemas when the spooky holiday has already had the life choked out of it by Christmas. The horror is filled with a mostly unknown cast, but it does have one big draw - it’s written and directed by the writers of A Quiet Place - one of the iconic horror renaissance movies of the last few years. Its premise is quite simple - a haunted house that’s more deadly than meets the eye - but it also tags onto the Halloween trope of victims overcoming their abusers and taking back their power.
A group of college friends (of course) enter a Halloween haunted house for some fun, but instead of cheap scares faces off with a deadly foe intent on unmasking them.
While it isn’t the most memorable movie, Haunt takes a few turns that will keep horror fans engaged, especially a great ending that upends the whole cliche of ‘the villain isn’t as dead as you think’. The characters themselves are pretty commonplace - and the lead is your typical broody girl dealing with some trauma - but she does end up surprising you.
The movie’s more poignant strength, however, lies with its villains and set design - a lot of meticulous planning went into how the haunted house was set up, almost like one you’d like to experience in real life. Its inhabitants are at the beginning our typically creepy clown masked slasher killer, but they have far more calculated interactions with their victims, making them more terrifying than some silent psycho.
Haunt is a paint-by-numbers horror at first glance, but there is some depth when you hone in on the theme of abuse. The main character is dealing with the betrayal of a loved one in the present and the past, a portrayal of the deep wounds inflicted by domestic violence. This is juxtaposed by the scars of the psycho killers, but these are ones they inflict upon themselves as well as others. Their kills are quick - there is no physical torture - so their real pleasure comes from the fear of their prey. The lead has to face those fears - her present and past ones - and crawling through the haunted house can be symbolic of the hell victims have to crawl through to get themselves out of there.
But in the end, that power is taken back, and while predictable, it’s always great as a female horror fan when men get their asses handed to by their own fear-induced hubris.