I just watched the 2019 haunted house/slasher hybrid Haunt on Shudder TV’s The Last Drive-In.
Joe Bob Briggs, who hosts The Last Drive-In and who is, as we all know, one of the patron saints of grindhouse movie lovers, gave Haunt a rating of 4 stars and said to check it out. Having watched the film, I think Joe Bob was being a bit generous in his assessment. Personally, I would have given it two and a half stars or maybe, depending on my mood, three. It’s an undeniably effective film but it’s also a bit on the predictable side.
A group of students meet up at a Halloween party and end up going to a haunted house together. The haunted house is kind of in the middle of nowhere. It’s populated by oddly quiet people wearing creepy masks. There’s a clown. There’s a devil, who we earlier saw stalking one of the students at the party. There’s a ghost. Before anyone is allowed to enter the house, everyone is required to sign a liability waiver and to give up their cell phone. It’s pretty obvious from the start that anyone who enters the haunted house is going to be stalked and killed by the people in the masks but our partygoers enter the house anyway. Blood flows and mayhem follows.
As I said, it’s effectively done. The haunted house is a wonderful location and the masked killers all look properly creepy. You have to kind of wonder if the killers couldn’t have come up with a simpler way to capture and take out their victims but then again, homicidal psychopaths are pretty much going to do whatever they want. I mean, are you going to be the one to tell a guy wearing a devil mask and carrying a pitchfork that his ideas don’t make any sense? You never disagree with a devil holding a pitchfork. That’s just common sense. If a devil with a pitchfork tells you that you’re going to travel around Illinois, setting up haunted houses …. well, you don’t argue with him. Instead, you hop on the next plane to Chicago and you make a deal with the Mafia to keep you supplied with pumpkins.
But, at the same time, Haunt never really took me by surprise. None of the victims were particularly interesting and, once you got beyond the fact that they were wearing creepy masks and that they all had a messed up backstory, there wasn’t really anything that special about the killers either. The real star of the film was the haunted house, which was imaginatively designed and full of ominous atmosphere. I especially liked the escape room, where all of the notes had to held up to a mirror in order to be read. There’s something under the bed indeed!
Haunt is good enough to serve as a part of your Halloween film buffet but it definitely shouldn’t be the only option on the menu. It’s effectively creepy but it doesn’t stick with you the way that the best horror films do. If the best horror movies are like a nightmare that you simply cannot forget, Haunt is more like an amusement par ride. It’s fun while it lasts but, by the time it’s over, your mind has already moved onto the next attraction.