“Haunt” effectively explores the deepest fears people have about daring to go into haunted mazes and makes them a terrifying reality.
Though a familiar sounding premise, this frightening film, written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (the team behind the hit thriller A Quiet Place), invite us to peek behind the scenes at the many reasons haunts are so good at scaring us. This horror attraction is no mere entertainment – almost every minute of it is a brutal fight for life.
I adore immersive horror events. I have worked in mazes scaring the crap out of people most of my life, and I love to see what kind of ideas other people come up with for the same kind of events. Giving yourself to strangers, albeit figuratively by signing a disclaimer and promising not to fight back or get upset, you hand control of your life to someone else. This is the ultimate in scary.
In recent years, extreme haunts have become all the rage. Some of them are benign, most are just scary fun, and a few go as close to the edge as they can without really harming their victims, I mean guests.
Synopsis: On Halloween, a group of friends encounter an “extreme” haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the realization that some monsters are real.
The college kids in Haunt are just looking for some harmless Halloween fun. Well they get what they asked for, if you take out the harmless part, and realize its only fun for the crazies running the event!
Haunt revolves around the character of Harper (Katie Stevens). We learn right off the bat that Harper is being abused by an over testosterone-filled boyfriend.
Covering up her black eye with makeup and ignoring his obnoxious texts, Harper is talked into going to a Halloween party by her roommate. At the bar they meet a few other college friends and from a flyer they find, decide to dump the lame party in exchange for the excitement of an extreme haunt.
The titular haunt is quite a feat of engineering.
Reminding me a lot of the Saw franchise, the unlucky group goes from one room to another with traps to work through. Separated for a time, they go their way through the different themed rooms, each scarier that the last; even into a room where it looks like they murder one of their friends. Did they really see that, or is it part of the show?
At one point after seeing them injured and terrified, one of the workers offers to help them. Relieved, they think they are getting somewhere and can probably get out. Unfortunately, then they find out the people beneath the masks are scarier than the masks themselves, and these monsters have no intention of letting them get out alive.
The fun night now turns into a life or death struggle to see who can make it to the end and get free.
The cinematography, the lighting and the special effects were all important, powerful and beautifully executed aspects of the film.
The retro masks on the bad guys were superb! They built what looked to be a fully functioning extreme haunt that I would love to go to. The music was effective too, as were all the little whisperings and creepy sounds throughout the film.
The college group themselves were not that interesting or memorable. A shy damaged girl, a few popular and very pretty girls, a handsome guy and his loud-mouthed buddy. Except for Harper, I didn’t know much of their backstories, and I honestly didn’t really care. They were all good actors, and they all played their parts well, though none stood out more than another.
It was the people running the haunt that fascinated me the most.
Who are these gruesome freaks? They seemed to relish teasing, misleading and of course, hurting our adrenaline seekers. Tattooed, damaged and covered in body modifications, they themselves are what nightmares are made of.
This group had one purpose and it was that of torture and murder. They had slashing down to an art form! There was no way our dorky group of Halloween revelers were supposed to get out safe and sound.
In a statement about Haunt from the writer/directors, we learn more about the inspiration for the film:
“It was a return to the classic slasher staples, perfected by our heroes like John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper; films that strap you into a terrifying roller coaster and plague your nightmares long after the credits roll.”
Even if the characters weren’t perfect, the film took me on that roller coaster, and I had a terrific ride!
This is a perfect film for pre-Halloween viewing — great for getting into that “I want to be scared shitless” mindset!
HAUNT is a well-done slasher film with an ending that satisfies. Even though there is a lot of blood and guts, there is still a “what you don’t see is scarier” aesthetic to it; part of what makes real haunted attractions so amazing.
If I could have had one wish for this film, it would have been to find out more about the misshapen monsters running the haunt. They were the true fascination for me, and I hope maybe there is another film in the works to tell their story. There were some incredibly disturbing faces in this group; faces that even their own mothers couldn’t have loved!
Produced by Eli Roth and written/directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, Haunt made its world premiere on August 8th at the 2019 Popcorn Frights Film Festival.