Starring Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alisa McClain
Written by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Directed by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
As the seasons change and we approach Halloween, there are several horror movies coming out about haunted attractions. Most people love that rush of fear, so getting their friends together and going through a haunted house to see if they can make it out without getting too scared is a favorite pastime. As someone who has worked behind the scenes of haunted attractions, I can tell you that there is no bigger thrill than scaring the shit out of someone. As much as I love scaring people, I do not enjoy being on the other side and going through a haunted house, which is one of the many reasons I found the new movie Haunt to be so effective. This movie scared me on a visceral level.
Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the writers of A Quiet Place, Haunt might be the scariest, and most accurate, movie about a haunted attraction with a few dark twists along the way. Produced by Eli Roth, the movie tells the story of a group of friends who go to an obscure haunted house on Halloween night and may not live to talk about it. Momentum Pictures will release Haunt in theaters, on demand, and digital on September 13th.
Katie Stevens plays Harper, a college student with a traumatic family secret and an abusive boyfriend. Harper’s friends convince her to go out and have some fun on Halloween instead of wasting her time with her alcoholic boyfriend. Everyone except Harper dresses up in costume and they end up at a club, where Harper isn’t having a very good time until she meets Nathan (Will Brittain). When a fight breaks out, Harper and her friends decide to leave and go to a haunted house. Harper invites Evan to join her and her friends Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain), Evan (Andrew Caldwell), Angela (Shazi Raja), and Mallory (Schuyler Helford) as they try to locate a haunted house they saw on a flyer. Lost in the middle of nowhere, they notice a sign on the side of the road suddenly light up indicating there is a haunted house ahead. They’re all a little spooked but decide to give it a try.
Someone dressed as a clown is waiting for them at the entrance to the haunted house. The clown doesn’t speak, but only hands them a paper with the rules of the haunt. They are each required to sign a waiver releasing the haunt from liability and leave their cell phones in a lock box at the entrance. Spiders are used several times in the movie, even before they reach the haunt when they order a bottle of tequila at the bar with a giant spider in it. Since spiders are my biggest fear, the reoccurring spiders in Haunt managed to give me a bad case of the creepy crawlies.
Once the group enters the haunt, they end up in a maze and decide to split up, with one group heading in the direction marked safe and the other going in the direction marked not safe. Haunt does utilize some common haunted house tropes but gets points for originality for some creative scares I have not seen before. If you suffer from claustrophobia, you might not enjoy some of the things the group has to endure. As each new scare seems to go horribly wrong, a member of the group either goes missing or ends up seriously injured.
Katie Stevens gives a strong performance as the troubled Harper, but my favorite performances are from some of the weirdos behind the masks. It’s harder than you might imagine to convey the relentless creepiness that drives Haunt while wearing a mask. The mysterious masked people running the haunt do not speak and will not help them when the friends decide they are in danger and ask to leave. In fact, it soon becomes clear that the people in charge of the haunt have no intention of ever letting anyone leave, which means the remaining members of the group must attempt to fight their way out.
Haunt isn’t perfect, but it features exceptional editing, an imaginative story, and it is genuinely scary. Beck and Woods absolutely nail the haunted house aesthetic. The biggest scare of all comes when the identities of the people running the haunt are revealed. The SFX makeup is fantastic and makes the big reveal, of who or what is underneath the masks, truly terrifying. There are a lot of movies about haunted houses but Haunt undeniably stands out and should be required Halloween viewing. In fact, I’m adding Haunt to my list of favorite movies about haunted attractions gone wrong alongside The Houses October Built and Hell House, LLC. Make sure you stick around for the end credits for a very interesting cover of “Dragula.”
Haunt might be the scariest, and most realistic, movie about a haunted attraction, with a few dark twists along the way.