Haunt is everything I ever wanted from a Halloween flick: blood, gore, tense atmosphere, amazing set design, and spectacular direction. I went into Haunt with relatively moderate expectations and left flabbergasted with how much I adored every second.
Directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods have created an experience that invites all your worst fears into one place, while somehow managing to be tense, amusing, and most of all fun. It's a near flawless combination of tones that make a remarkable horror film with such profound energy that its difficult to compare it to just one horror film in general. Haunt understands what makes a horror film scary and that's the atmosphere. Beck and Woods have executed a horrifying environment for our characters to run around in and easily make us dread the idea of ever going to a haunted house again - let alone an "extreme" one.
A group of twenty somethings seek out a haunted attraction for their Halloween night and come across an extreme haunted house in the middle of nowhere. After signing a bunch of wavers, the group enters the house and get much more of a scare they were bargaining for. For those that don’t know, the writers of Haunt are the same duo behind one of the best horror films of 2018, A Quiet Place. Their script for A Quiet Place may have much less dialogue than what Haunt contains, but the tense writing is still there one hundred percent, visually taking us on a journey through this maze of a haunted house. The overarching storyline is tightly bound, with hardly any hole left untouched. Every forgotten element comes back into the story at one time or another to close off that piece of the plot. While I found the plot to be wonderfully mixed in its tone with dark humor, tense horror, and an all around creepy atmosphere, I could see where someone may be caught off guard by its absolutely insane “twist” halfway through that proceeds to get more absurd with every scene. However in the eyes of this critic, Beck and Woods have brought a grand mixture of tone into a blast of a horror film.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The characters in Haunt have the biggest room for improvement, with many characters not getting a ton of development ahead of their demise. Many, many characters die, and in a vast array of shocking ways. None of the characters are particularly the most fascinating to watch, but their performances here are good and move the story along with solid charisma from the lot. Harper (Katie Stevens) is our supposed “final girl,” she receives the most development of any of the characters in the film and similar to You’re Next, progresses in a fashion that is fearful yet prepared to fight. Beyond the main characters, it’s our haunted house villains that I would have loved to get a little more backstory for, as their true selves are horrifying, but it’s not ever truly explained as to why they look the way they do. There are tons of possibilities out there that could improve some of the characters in Haunt, but it’s just enough that you can make up your own backstory with multiple viewings.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
I’d be lying if I said that I enjoyed all of the scores tomandandy have composed for films throughout their filmography. However they have a few prize holders in the mix, with a wonderfully tense score in such films as 47 Meters Down and The Strangers. You can see where they got the inspiration for this incredibly tense, yet fun composition. The sound design is just phenomenal, as every shift in position, every weapon drawn, and with every bloody end, Haunt understands how to generate shivers down the audiences spine with a single jingle of a door knob. Absolutely beautiful work and something that I’d love to see more of in other horror films - Haunt is joining the ranks of The Descent and Evil Dead (2013) with its sound quality.
The practical effects in this film are gloriously done, from the opening shot to the credits rolling the scenery, traps, and costumes were all wonderfully creepy. The haunted house itself was unbelievably realistic; it felt like an attraction you would find yourself wandering through in the middle of October for sure. It’s not the house itself that blows my mind but the level of thought put into the mask work and make up our villains wear throughout. The effects crew should be applauded for their work here, as they’ve made a captivating and done right scary haunted house using, as far as I’m concerned, 99.9% practical effects.
You're Next meets SAW II; Haunt is a non-stop funhouse. Accompanied by tremendous sound design and bloody terrific practical effects, Haunt is an absolute blast that will certainly make you rethink going to a haunted house ever again - at least for a while.