(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Haunt
Where You Can Stream It: Shudder
The Pitch: College kids go to an extreme haunted house that turns out to be very extreme indeed.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: All those searching for Halloween scares need look no further than Haunt, a delightful, nasty little horror-thriller written and directed by A Quiet Place writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. It’s seasonally appropriate, brings the scares, has a fair amount of gore, and does a good job recreating the experience of going to a haunted house (although the haunted house here is a lot deadlier than the real establishments that crop up every Halloween season).
There seems to be a growing subgenre devoted to movies about Halloween haunted houses that turn out to be really haunted and/or deadly. There’s the Hell House, LLC trilogy; The Houses That October Built; Blood Fest and Hell Fest (these are two different movies, I swear). And then there’s Haunt. The aforementioned movies – save for the first Hell House, LLC – are all rather dire. But Haunt succeeds, primarily because it’s effective in creating a disturbing atmosphere.
A group of college kids heads off to a haunted house that looks at first blush to be rather pathetic. It’s in some sort of garage, and it’s run by people in lackluster costumes sporting cheap plastic masks. But the further the kids go into the establishment, the more it becomes apparent that the scares here aren’t just for fun. Grounding it all is a sympathetic lead character – Harper, played by Katie Stevens. Harper has had a traumatic life – both her father and her current boyfriend are abusive, and part of what makes Haunt work is watching her slowly take control of the deadly situation she’s suddenly in as a way of overcoming her personal trauma.
Is it a little hokey and a little predictable? Sure, but it works. Sometimes you just can’t beat simplicity. I get such a kick out of this film that I’ve vowed to rewatch it every Halloween. I just rewatched it the other night and found that I enjoyed it even more than when I first saw it back in 2019.
Beck and Woods have plenty of tricks up their sleeves here, and a late-pic reveal involving the guys wearing those cheap masks is suitably disturbing. Haunt doesn’t exactly break new ground, and a lot of the characters around Harper are admittedly rather disposable. But from the opening shot of a quiet suburban street at night full of flickering jack-o-lanterns to the subtle creepiness of those cheap masks, there’s such an excellent Halloween vibe coming off of Haunt that will appeal to those seeking the holiday spirit.
Now, where can I get one of those masks?
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