“Haunt” Movie Review
The modern haunted house mythos has become a pastiche of all the various different scary stories: Like vampires, you have to let the ghosts into your life; like werewolves, paranormal activity is heightened during the full moon; like voodoo, curses can be put on people or places by people or events… writers have sifted through more ancient stories and chosen various elements that appeal to them. This allows for a more satisfying, less-constricted story overall, but also consequently makes it less authentic.
This film may mark the difference between straight-to-Netflix horror films and the kind you pay $7 to see on Amazon. I have to say that I was actually impressed with this one. From its opening scene, Haunt was clearly cared about deeply by its creators. There were no shortcuts taken during the writing or filming. The definition of “haunt” as “a feeding place for animals” and not, well, “what a ghost does” really sets the tone for a better thought-out scary movie.
Some movies attempt a crossover of science and technology with the paranormal – Sinister comes to mind. This storyline is meant to enforce the reality of the paranormal by proving its existence. In my opinion, Sinister’s major fault was making the films found in the attic more than creepy movies, but that’s beside the point. Haunt’s premise is based on the use of a piece of technology to communicate with the dead. I can see its appeal: the ancient box of analog equipment… bygone technology for bygone spirits. Some films suggest that the paranormal is accessible with cutting edge equipment that maybe hasn’t been created yet (Poltergeist); but others expose ghosts with technology we have left behind (see The Awakening, Sinister… Paranormal activity also does so by only showing the physical manipulations of a ghost that isn’t actually captured on digital videotape). Using “the old technology” often insinuates a loss of cultural wisdom as the cost of new technology or societal structure. Haunt’s use of this premise, however, portrayed it as a touching but misguided foray into powers that are more powerful than we can fully understand.
These (horror) movies are so clearly geared towards children – whether the writers intend for it or not. That there is usually a child whose premonitions or gut-instincts foretell the danger ahead – always at the disbelief of the parents – shows that the audience is meant to identify with them. This plays on a child’s fears – that in times of crisis, their elders won’t believe them – that “I told you so” will be their only retaliation. What makes a movie scary for adults is when the child is the conduit for the malevolent powers in play.
Haunt has many excellent elements leading up to its climax. It was far less convoluted than The Conjuring, for example. The film felt fresh and well-crafted. For example, the use of Night of the Living Dead on the TV early on – images of the zombies trying to break through the door – was a nice touch. Haunt also focuses less on the actual besiegement of demons than its consequences. The monsters are only shown in the dark, and for short clips. I liked that. You don’t get a lot of time to scrutinize and pick apart the “scary” images.
That said, Haunt didn’t actually frighten me. There were some moments of chills and shock surprises; but this film will not leave much of a lasting effect. Its associations weren’t familiar enough to make me question my relations with them, and I just mostly feel too distanced from the elements to really be scared by them (maybe if I was a HAM radio fanatic, I’d be a little wary in the future). One thing I adored about it was that it was dark, violent, and its ending is much different than most in the genre. Haunt is unapologetic, and I really liked that about it.
I feel as if the absolute best circumstances to watch this movie would be the first night living in a new house, in the dark, with one of your neighbors you’ve never met before.