Vic’s Review – “Haunt” (2013)

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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.

Haunt

Directed by Mac Carter

By Vic

“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.

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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.

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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.

14 comments

  1. I just saw this over the weekend. It was kinda’ a good story and I liked the look of the ghost and the fact that it wasn’t CGI, but it was not at all scary. It had only one creepy part and the relationship part between the teens was a bit long in the tooth.

    • I did like the look of and make up on the ghost. She did look pretty creepy. I liked the scenes involving the teens and the ghost evp box but not much else was that scary, like you said. Too bad.

      Thanks for stopping by, Michael. I appreciate it!

    • Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the review. I appreciate you checking in.

      Let me know if you like the movie (or not, lol). 🙂

    • It was weird, too, because the evp box scenes felt like a totally different kind of movie and the approach and execution was unique and well done. But ultimately those scenes were too fleeting and overtaken by all of the more routine ghost story manipulations. Too bad.

      Thanks for checking in!

  2. You gave it the exact same score as me! Copycat! You stealing my material dude?

    All kidding aside, it is certainly a missed opportunity. I came to watch a cool looking ghost wreck havoc on a household. Not see a romance dominant the screen until the ghost decides to attack for a short sequence before it ends…..

    I know Jacki Weaver is a good actress and all! Which shocks me because I found her performance kind of weak here. Am I the only one?

    • Hey, if I’m gonna steal, might as well be from the best, right? 😀

      I’ll be sure to head over to your page and check out your review. Too bad this film was pretty much a big fail. Could have been so much better and the relationship between the leads was soooo boring and when the ghost stuff happens it’s way too brief and confusing.

      And yeah. Weaver was kind of bland and that VO of hers was quite pathetic. Oh well, on to the next horror flick. There is always one out there looming.

      Thanks for checking in, man. I appreciate it!

      • YES SIR!!!

        Exactly! I did not care about their corny love! What parent would let a random chick sleep over and act like it was nothing in the morning? The writing was just so silly at times!

        Next horror flick? Watch Afflicted! Check it out dude! I’m going to a screening of Oculus tonight! So pumped!

      • You’re going to see Oculus? Cool! Have a good time, man! I liked that director’s last movie, “Absentia.” Pretty decent horror flick. Have you seen it?

        I’ll give Afflicted a watch for sure! Thanks! I’ll let you know when I get to it.

      • Wasn’t it? So low key but effective. I’ll be sure to head over and check out your review of Oculus! Thanks 🙂

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