DVD Review: The Hunted
January 17, 2015
Movie Curiosities: Paddington
January 17, 2015

DVD REVIEW: HAUNT

Haunt - Title

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MSRP $24.98
STUDIO MPI Home Video
RUNNING TIME 85 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES
• Director’s Commentary
• Cast/Crew Interviews
• Behind the Scenes
• Trailer
• Morello Case File Videos and Home Movies
• Makeup Effects Behind the Scenes

The Pitch

The Haunting in Connecticut 3: Ghosts of Boredom

The Humans

Harrison Gilbertson, Jacki Weaver, Liana Liberato

The Nutshell

Years ago, Dr. Janet Morello saw her entire family die in their house under tragic and gruesome cricumstances. Wanting a change of scenery, she sold her home to the Asher family, including teenage son Evan. Evan is the only one suspicious baout his family’s supposed new dream house, and after striking up a friendship with his troubled neighbor Samantha, he discovers a way to communicate with the ghosts of the slaughtered Morello family. But soon Evan and Smantha’s morbid curiosity into the supernatural turns dangerous as the spirits start to manifest themselves in the physical world. Now, despite the warnings of Dr. Morello, the teens are determined to discover the terrible secrets that surroudn these ghastly apparitions and send them back to the realm of the dead before it’s too late.

The Lowdown

I vaguely remember a time when the horror community, sick to death of slasher movies, bemoaned the lack of old-school ghost stories like The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, and the like. And so the cursed monkey’s paw that is the film industry obliged their wishes and now we live in a world where a burned dad-joke telling pedophile killing people in their dreams sounds refreshing and fun.

We open on a man using a weird transistor radio thing to communicate with his dead children. They warn him that “she” is coming and then he is possessed by a malevolent ghost who forces him to commit suicide. Now we get an opening narration from Jacki Weaver as she details how her family was killed by the ghost in the house and we meet the new family that she’s selling it to.

The house is creepy. The teenage son (Evan) picks the room with the most dramatic potential, the previous owner makes creepy allusions, and then a father beats his teenage daughter. Wait, what? I don’t know who either of those characters are, we just jump cut to a random scene of child abuse out of nowhere. Now the teenage son walks up on the girl (Sam) crying in the woods and dialogue worthy of The Twilight Saga is fired back and forth. Against all odds the actors still manage to endear me to their badly-written characters.

"This looks like a good spot for some scary shit to go down.  I'll take it!"

“This looks like a good spot for some scary shit to go down. I’ll take it!”

Sam shows up in his bedroom and sleeps beside him until morning when his little sister discovers them. Rather than sneaking her out for obvious reasons, Evan just walks down to breakfast with a strange girl his own age and his parents just seem pretty cool with that. There is a throwaway line where his father says “talk about that when we get home?” to his mother, but it seems like an afterthought.

Dangerous and troubled Sam becomes Evan’s bad-girl best friend/potential love interest and seemingly lives in his bedroom now. At one point she drags out the transistor radio thing and they talk to a ghost that tells them that this is his room. Vaguely creepy stuff happens for a bit but nothing big until the last 25 minutes and I can’t discuss the rest of the movie without spoiling the plot.

Calling Haunt a throwback would be incorrect, Haunt is a hodgepodge. Take every popular ghost story you can think of from the 70s, 80s, 90s, even a couple from the early 00s and throw it in a pot and boil it down to a sludgy stew and that’s Haunt in a nutshell. Every set-piece and idea in this movie has been used at least once in another movie, which would be fine, but all those other movies used their ideas better. Haunt feels like a bunch of shit thrown at a wall and that’s never more obvious than it is in the finale.

Evan’s little sister is obviously in congress with a ghost and at one point is seen joyfully scratching the eyes out of a picture of her family with a nail. Wonder what that’s all about? Too bad, never elaborated on. What is this weird box that can talk to the dead and where did it come from? No clue, never elaborated on.

Then there’s the contradictions: the ghost wants the people in the house to do something, so why does it try to kill them? When it’s revealed who the ghost is (it’s telegraphed way early in the film if you’re even half paying attention) it actually makes the entire movie make no sense at all. There is a pretty ballsy downbeat ending, but it’s not even remotely earned and so I just found it annoying.

That lady from The Shining is having a real career resurgence of late.

That lady from The Shining is having a real career resurgence of late.

Haunt isn’t even what I would call a bad movie. All the acting is good (even from our two teenage leads) and the cinematography is fine (though a bit reminiscent of the old Lionsgate horror stock overly-shadowed creepy look). All the weakness of Haunt is in the writing: the dialogue is atrocious, the story is all over the place using whatever it feels it can to get the best scares without justifying why these things are happening, and worst of all the movie is terminally boring. Haunt isn’t even 90 minutes, yet it’s over an hour before anything notable happens on the supernatural front.

Haunt has most of the pieces of a good movie but is missing that one big piece that would tie it together. It’s a boring sloppy mess and its relative competency in other areas only prove that it could’ve done better.

The Package

There’s a ton of special features so if you like this movie then this release is certainly for you. The director’s commentary is very informative (though mostly technical), there’s a makeup effects featurette, and some supplemental videos that go with the story. The movie is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. There are English and Spanish subtitles.

[Rating: 1.5]