What’s it About?
An introverted teen sparks with his new neighbor, and together the couple begins to explore the haunted house that his family has unknowingly just purchased.
Directed by Mac Carter
“Every ghost story begins with a house. And a Tragedy.”
Writer Andrew Barrer (Leave) provides somewhat suitable but cliched material for director Mac Carter (Secret Origins: The Story of DC Comics) in the form of this 2013 horror film named “Haunt.” The film, which has all of the James Wan-like flourishes that are a common staple now, is an average piece that has some merit. Merit that is warranted because Carter does know how to maintain a small level of flair, style and the all too familiar tropes that can sink a film with lesser ambition.
Horror film fans can be a very fickle bunch. Some love different kinds. Ghost stories, Slashers, Torture, Zombies and so on and so on. Sometimes, the most casual of horror movie watchers are VERY discriminating only sticking to some films that are widely lauded. James Wans’ Insidious and The Conjuring immediately come to mind.
Carter’s film fall into the supernatural / ghost story category and I think that the most fickle of us may not be too forgiving or patient with Carter’s routine manipulations and approach. But the effort is there and when the genre gets inundated with so many pedestrian and lackluster entries, this could feel like a breath of fresh air. But that doesn’t get this movie off the hook.
Carter’s film begins with an interesting sequence involving a distressed middle aged man named Morello, who, while drinking, is speaking into a device that picks up EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). He comes into contact with an entity and after he begins to further unravel it appears that an other worldly force takes over him. It doesn’t end well for Morello. Carter, who knows his way around the horror movie universe with creepy angles, shadows and nifty lenses and filters, proceeds with a back story to the events.
Mrs. Morello (Jacki Weaver), in voice over, gives us the sordid history of her and her family who are plagued by deadly forces that ruins the family and their medical practice. Then after the set up we are introduced to the new family moving into the home which is known in the area as being haunted and off limits. Typical huh? Yep. Pretty much.
Harrison Gilbertson (Need for Speed) plays a brooding teen (There is always some brooding teen now, isn’t there?), named Evan who befriends a troubled teen girl , who lives next door named Sam, played by Liana Liberato (Erased). After Evan tries to help her she sort of lands right into Evans bed one night asking him to protect her. From what? Evan has no idea. Also, Mrs Morello steps in and talks to Evan while retrieving a painting that was left behind. And Mrs Morello never has anything good to say even when she is asked for help later in the film.
Obviously, there are weird, saturated and off color flash backs utilized to fill in the gaps and holes to provide insight. Carter manages to make the film appear to be an extended episode of “American Horror Story” rather than displaying sorely needed scares with unique design and style. But his character interactions are well written and somber with good mood supplied by Reinhold Heil’s score. These scenes are done with good form.
As things get more intense after a decent set up (despite the flashy noises and loud music to facilitate a scare), the movie starts to buckle in with ever increasing bits of predictable moments and carbon copy antics borrowed from other films. Carter’s film is good looking mimicry. After Sam shows Evan the cool looking “EVP Ghost Box” (which is actually a pretty creepy looking thing) Sam (who never seems to go home or have any parents and when we see her Dad, he’s out of focus) freaks Evan out and when the box actually works the story kicks up a notch.
Barrer tries too hard, though, to get “deep” with what is going on and he lost me with all the strange teen angst crap. Eventually Evan and Sam start to make discoveries to try and give some more weight to the movie. Their discussions about the afterlife and their close proximity to it are interesting enough to become engaged but it’s short lived. “Haunt” really strives to be more but so many sequences seem to owe themselves to better movies of the genre. The ending, which will divide some, just seemed average and quite garden variety to me.
But I do like those ghost box scenes. The damn prop becomes a character all in itself. Sam and Evan, then, work their way to trying to reach deceased members of the Morello clan. When they do, we get the obligatory fill in scenes of what really happened to the Morello’s and their legacy years before.
“Haunt” provides us with much more of the same regarding the types of scares. Lights that flicker and reveal a ghost person, kids talking to spirits (and creepy dolls) that are not there, apparitions that just explode into the frame and or lurk around corners, possessed people, parents that don’t know what is going on, the troubled girlfriend that knows all of the strange things in the home and etc etc. Yep, it’s all here.
Even conversations held regarding the history of the home, some deaths and the Morello’s sordid history all seem as if dropped in from better films like The Conjuring, Insidious and The Amityville Horror (the film even ends with a loud title card in bright red. yawn). In his defense, Carter still has plenty of room to grow and hone his skills at trying to maintain suspense and the right mood to satisfy horror lovers.
The material is what is the elephant in the room. We’ve seen it all before. “Haunt” looks and sounds good but ultimately it is a forgettable amalgam of “Sinister” and other dark haunted house movies that every so often can really scare us. Consider it as a rental if you want to see this! Proceed with caution.