I’ve had Haunt in my TBW pile for a while now and not because I wasn’t interested in seeing it. I tried to, actually, several months back when I was hanging out alone at my brother’s place. I only made it to the first 20 something minutes before I was too scared to watch it. I tried again last night and made it further by another 20 minutes but then I got too chicken to continue. I tried again today and lo and behold, third time’s the charmed. I made it to the end and it was worth every spooky minute.
Haunt tells the story of the Asher family, who move into an old house formerly occupied by the Morellos, a family believed to be cursed after all three of the Morello kids died of different circumstances. The father Franklin, also follows his children to the grave, leaving Dr. Janet Morello the sole survivor in her family. As the Ashers settle in, the son Evan (Harrison Gilbertson) meets a troubled young woman in the woods who eventually encourages him to use the communicator to talk to the Morellos. They proceed to unleash a vengeful spirit who wants her pound of flesh.
I usually don’t get spooked too easily when it comes to horror movies so I would like to credit the filmmakers for being able to do it, not once, or twice but multiple times throughout the film. What I loved about the movie was that while the haunted house premise has been done and redone countless times, it was able to work with the concept and deliver something that seemed fresh and unlike any of the movies of the genre.
While the story had its links to the past, it teased the mystery by using short snippets of scenes as if to give audiences flashes of clues to piece together what has happened to the Morello family and how it was connected to the new family. The filmmakers also concentrated on their central characters Evan and Sam (Liana Liberato) instead of including the whole family, building the story around the teens so that they became more relateable to the audience. It wasn’t hard because Evan was a pretty great guy considering the baggage that Sam had to deal with while Sam, despite her compulsion to engage in the seance, had understandable reasons for wanting it to work.
What was great about the approach to this movie was that it was really patient. It didn’t go for the quick scare but rather, it sustained the suspense and the audiences’ fright and only unleashed the ghouls when the viewers were already off their guard. That’s what got me the first time, and the second time, and all the times after. It was a great feeling to be scared especially considering that the people behind it definitely worked hard to make it work and put a lot of thought into its execution.
All in all, Haunt had a lot of handicaps with its rather worn out plot but it managed to work around it and come out on top by treading a different path than all the others before it. As a result, it was beautifully shot, it was creepy, it was well paced and it delivered a movie that managed to pique an interest for the mystery and build an interest for the characters. In short, it served up a new take on the typical ghost story. To budding director Mac Carter and writer Andrew Barrer, as well as the entire team behind Haunt — all I can say is, well played guys, well played.