Plus, a subplot involving Sam’s potential abuse of Harper does not work as intended. Mainly because it goes against Sam’s actions later in the film, and he does not have enough screentime for a turnabout to make logical sense. The villains’ motivations are also not particularly interesting. It would have probably been more engaging if they remained entirely silent a la the brilliant The Houses October Built.
However, Haunt has several strengths, as well. For one, Woods and Beck are impeccably assured directors. As Harper is outside at the party, she sees a vision of herself on the other side of a locked gate. She’s not sure if it is real or what is happening, and the sequence is unnerving. And that is before the true horror kicks off. Once at the haunted house, the co-directors lovingly play around with the fake props used to scare unsuspecting patrons and the real fear of friends being vivisected.
“…the characters are mainly stereotypes with nothing to subvert or supplant typical expectations.”
This does mean that for all its faults, Haunt is a gruesome, creepy watch that will satiate the desires of horror buffs. Ryan Samul’s cinematography is excellent, creating a frightening, intense atmosphere with ease. Plus, the cast is outstanding. Katie Stevens imbues Harper with a lot of sympathy and makes the audience care for her. As Nathan, who is the one character that breaks the mold, Will Brittain puts his charm and commanding presence to good use. Caldwell plays the annoying best friend- the kind whose introduction makes you wonder why anyone likes this fellow- with aplomb and generates a good number of laughs. Once the stakes get high, he also has one of the most moving parts of the film.
Haunt does not have the same dramatic weight as the wonderful The Scarehouse. But it hits its intended goals of being creepy and scaring its viewers, thanks to strong acting, fantastic visuals, and eerie sound design. However, the characters are all stock, and the attempt at a backstory for Harper does not entirely work. For folks who love horror, and the killers run amok at a haunted attraction subgenre, this works. For all others, check out The Funhouse Massacre.