Starring: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alisa McClain
From Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, the directors and writers who brought us the
In need of distraction from her abusive boyfriend, Harper (Katie Stevens) is coaxed by her two best roomies' into joining them in their Halloween night escapades at a local bar, where they meet and befriend Nathan (Will Brittain) and his two buddies. To keep that night's buzz going, the now group of six set their next course to a nearby remote "extreme haunt" advertised on a random flyer, not knowing that the masked and costumed people running it have no plans on letting them leave alive once they step in.
Haunt (2019), in its simplicity, run it trail as a back-to-basics bodycounter at most, with masked killers hunting teens and ending them through all means sharp and pointy, thus one can expect all the familiar slasher tropes of an arguably thin story (there was an attempt to fatten it up with a mystery, but obvious red herring was obvious), predictably bad decision making (Again, why split up? After witnessing an obvious murder?) and lackluster character dimensions. (The only one to get some backstory and development is our obvious final girl, while the rest are practically sacrificial lambs to the slasher dressed up as humans. To be fair, they were all well acted at least, both the kids and the killers)
Nothing strong in terms of actual scares too, mind you, as there are some parts of the movie where the slow and steady direction overstayed its welcome, most of which leading to either false scares or overseen curve balls which obviously didn't help the film regarding its fright factor. Nevertheless, taking notes from scare house slashers like The Funhouse (1980) and Dark Ride (2006), the film does the favorable grace of utilizing its tumbledown "extreme haunt" premise at great lengths, giving us a fair twist to what would have been a familiar stroll down dead teen lane as our casts are forced to go through and/or survive everything from simple trick rooms turned deadly to crawl-in raggedy death traps. With the way these set-ups are shot, a good amount of Haunt (2019)'s cinematography has that claustrophobic and/or barren isolated tone in mind, giving the film the creepy atmosphere and tight tension, their effectiveness here varying but present nevertheless.
The killers can also be treated as the movie's other notable strength, albeit lacking a stronger motive behind their killings. Without spoiling much, they're malicious for the sake of being malicious, seen without subtlety in their appearances behind the cheap Halloween disguises and the little whisper-croaks they say before going for the kill. This lack of proper explanation to what they want and why definitely gave them a mysterious edge and strong presence, though I'm sure there will be others who won't share this opinion with me. Still, often at times, I work with what I can get regarding a slasher villain and Haunt (2019) supplied an intimidating bunch for its run, dishing out real carnage.
At the end of it, Haunt (2019) does what it sets itself to be and seeing the gruesome practical effects used on a few memorable kills and the clunky traps laid upon our victims, I can say the film did well enough. Not too extreme, not too simple, it still has the pitfalls you would expect from the everyday dead teen horror, but crafted enough personal twists and freaky imagery from its modest production to give us this welcome sleeper hit. For a slasher-y festive Halloween watch, try pairing this back-to-back with 2018's Hellfest!
1 female burned on the face with a hot iron poker, disappears and presumably killed
1 female jabbed on the head with a hot iron poker
1 female stabbed though the head with a pitchfork
1 male brained, face peeled from the lips with a hammer claw
1 male shot on the head with a shotgun
1 female stabbed with a pitchfork
1 male had his head bashed in with a sledgehammer
1 male shot on the head
1 male brained with a sledgehammer
1 female repeatedly bashed on the face with a metal door
1 male brained with a bat
1 male shot with a shotgun