March 12, 2014

VOD Review: Haunt (2014)

"Not to be confused with Haunter."
(aka Not Haunter)
Release Date: March 7, 2014.
Country: USA
Written by: Andrew Barrer.
Directed by: Mac Carter.
Starring: Liana Liberato, Harrison Gilbertson, Jacki Weaver, Danielle Chuchran, and Ione Skye.

When it comes to Horror movies that feature teens in peril, most of them end up falling flat. That's mainly because such movies tend to treat their teen characters like they're lovelorn morons who are all but devoid of any sort of depth or real personality.

We're not talking about the "dumb teens who party too much and get what's coming to them," because those are the kinds of teen characters that usually populate Slasher flicks or Torture Porn, and they don't really need personality. They exist only to up the body count.

We're talking about the "normal" kids next door, who are always somehow crazy attractive, and exist only to be in love, or to sass their parents, or to mope around whining about how no one understands them. Those are the kinds of teen characters that should be more fleshed out, because they're meant to be more than just numbers to add to a kill count... at least in theory.

The cool thing about Haunt, is that for all of its faults, it actually manages to give us a pretty effective Haunted House flick that features teen characters that actually feel real, and end up being likable. Sure, there's still a teen love story going on here, and yes, we have to suffer through a bit of shy moping now and then, but that's alright; because real kids do those sorts of things. At least with Haunt, we get likable, smart characters doing some cliche' things, because that's just how normal people behave.

Haunt begins with a creepy prologue about the cursed Morello House, where all but one member of a family died under mysterious circumstances. The lone Morello survivor is the Mother, and she narrates the house's fateful history, and lets us know that there are ghosts and such most likely roaming around the place.

So it goes without saying that when the Asher Family moves into the old Morello house, things begin to get creepy. Shy son Evan Asher meets Sam, his cutie pie next-door neighbor, and they become fast friends; two damaged souls drawn together by... blah. Point is, that not only do they team up to uncover the mystery of what went on in the creepy house, but they somehow manage to fall in love along the way. Awww.

They are so in love.
Somehow Sam knows that there's a ghost radio in Evan's crawlspace, and she convinces him to try it out with her, so that they can "find heaven" or some such crap. They obviously don't find heaven, instead they unleash a vengeful spirit into the world.. or maybe the spirit was already there, but couldn't be proactive until someone used the ghost radio... we can't say for sure.

"Does this thing get Sirius?"
Either way, the house is full of ghosts, one of which is out for blood, the rest of which just kinda hang around and look creepy. What really went on in the Morello house? Is the Asher Family doomed to suffer the same grisly fate? What's with that ghost radio? Why do we just not trust Sam? We don't know anything about any of that, but we can say that by the time the movie ends, neither will you.

What does this even mean?
Two things keep Haunt from being a disappointing effort: its atmosphere, and the performances of its cast. 

The scares found in Haunt will definitely affect the younger folks in the audience, but we older Horror fans have seen too much to fall for a bunch of jump scares and music cues. Lucky for us, the movie does a pretty solid job of establishing a creepy and tension-filled atmosphere, which was every bit as effective (and even more so) as were its scares.

As far as the cast goes, Liana Liberato is the star here. Sure, mopey and broody Evan is the "main" character for all intents and purposes, but its not until he meets cute little Sam that the movie really gets interesting. Liana can act, she's likable, and the kid delivers here. Harrison Gilbertson (Evan) was equally as likable, and he made a good pair with Liberato.

The real treat of the movie though, was Jacki Weaver. She's devilishly creepy in this one, which may surprise fans of her Oscar Nominated performance in Silver Linings Playbook. She's no stranger to genre work though, her pedigree reaching as far back as 1975's Picnic at Hanging Rock. She was a treat in Haunt, and she definitely classed the movie up a bit. It was also nice to see Ione Skye on screen again (seems like it's been a while), even if her part was a relatively smaller one.

Haunt is not the most original movie, and in fact, it's about as run-of-the-mill as it gets as far a Haunted House flicks go, but it does manage to do some pretty engaging things within its limited trappings. We'll take overly-familiar as long as a movie is enjoyable, and for the most part, Haunt was.

Looks trustworthy to us.

The whole backstory element was really confusing.

So did the old woman kill her kids, or did she just off the woman that her husband was sleeping with? I have to assume that the mistress died first, then her angry ghost killed the woman's kids as revenge, but if that's the case, why would the dad cover his sons mouth and say "Don't make a sound! Don't even move!" as if he were afraid that the Mother would kill him too?

And why would they bring a dead body through their sons room while he's in bed sleeping, and take it into his crawlspace to bury it? Why not wait until no one was home?

All of this leads us to the big question: Where did the box come from? Even better, how did the Morello parents know what it was, and how to use it?

But why?!?
Jump-scares. Jarring music cues. Quick-cut & stuttered movement. Why have do Horror filmmakers still insist on using these lame gimmicks, as if they haven't been tired and ineffective for years now?

Yes, people are conditioned to become alarmed when they suddenly hear a loud noise, or when someone jumps out at them, but when you're going for mood, "loud and sudden" just does not fit. Nuance. That's all we want. We know it's not really that simple to achieve, but execute your big "scary" moments with a bit more style or something. Maybe there's no clear cut answer to the jump-scare issue, but man do they ever take us right out of a scene when done poorly.

As for the whole stuttered/broken movement thing goes though, can we please give that a rest? It was effective for a while in the early 2000's when Asian Horror became so popular, because seeing dead people/ghosts shake, shimmer, and move in quick-cut jumps was new and kind of startling. It was fun.

Years later, it's not really fun anymore. It's like jumping out at the same person, from exactly the same hiding place, every single day; at first, you got them. After a while, you still get them, but it's just not as effective, because you've gotten them before. After a while it becomes ineffective, because they know you're going to be there, and they're expecting you.

We're done ranting now, because we know that none of this will ever stop. It's just all so frustrating!

Don't look at us that way. We're picky.
Haunt has some bloodshed in it, but save for one death scene, most of it is pretty tame. There's lots of creepy imagery throughout though, so it's at least a bit bloody.

We are NOT going to make a "Hammertime" joke here. Not gonna do it.

Never open the "spirit box" and play with it. Not ever!

Not ever!
Haunt is a decent little Haunted House flick that is big on atmosphere and character, while being a bit confusing in its mechanics, and feeling a bit rushed towards the end.

It's definitely worth a rental on VOD, just go into it knowing that it's a fairly by-the-numbers endeavour, and you'll be fine.


Haunt is available now DVD and VOD.

Seems like just yesterday that we were watching Liana Liberato for the first time when she appeared on Sons of Anarchy, and now, she's all grown up. She's as beautiful as she is talented, and we expect nothing but big things from her career from this point out.



  1. Holy cow! That final pic of Miss Liberato leaning out of the window alone, makes me want to watch this film.

  2. There is a decent print of this on you tube. I agree as to the incoherence of some of the plot. I have to assume that the ghost killed the Morello children though she didn't seem to be the type you comes back as a murderous ghost - but then what do I know. The whole thing about the youngest daughter must have ended on the cutting room floor; it makes no sense and goes no where. Your review points out some of the other things not explained. Ms. Weaver was a compelling presence and how come I never meet incredibly pretty girls like Miss Liberato when walking at night? The actress who played the older sister was excellent and easily could have been the main character. If she had, the movie might have had a happier end. Still, a good starter film to watch with your younger brother or sister or your girlfriend if she is new to spooky movies.

  3. Definitely a fine starter flick for the uninitiated.

  4. I agree that the movie was good but lacked coherence in some of the plot. I'm looking forward for the second installment(if there would be) for clarifications.