Quick question — would you buy a house from a doctor who had been running a pediatric clinic out of if and who told you, right to your face, that they’d experienced a “family tragedy” there and decided to close up shop and split town because no one wants to hire a pediatrician “who can’t keep her own children alive”?
Nope, I wouldn’t either, but if the Asher family — consisting of father Alan (Brian Wimmer), mother Emily (Ione Skye — remember her?), teenagers Evan (Harrison Gilbertson) and Sara (Danielle Chuchran), and youngest daughter Anita (Ella Harris) don’t buy the place from sole-survivor-of-the-aforementioned-tragedy Janet Morello (Jacki Weaver), well, then — we wouldn’t have director Mac Carter’s 2014 indie horror effort Haunt to talk about here, would we?
Which, truth be told, probably wouldn’t be such a bad thing, because even for a Netflix weeknight time-waster, this movie is pretty goddamn lousy. I watched it the other night simply because, hey, I’ve got a theme to my viewing (and reviewing, obviously) this month, and this one fit the bill in that I hadn’t seen it before and was consequently going in with no real foreknowledge, much less any preconceptions, of it. The film was distributed onto, as they’re called, “home viewing platforms” by IFC Midight, and their stuff is usually of the “hit-or-miss” variety, but after a rather artfully-done and visually interesting opening scene that succeeded in grabbing my attention and setting a suitably eerie and atmospheric ood, it didn’t take long for everything to go straight downhill and for it to become readily apparent that this was definitely going to be a “miss.”
In point of fact, that last statement is probably too generous, because Haunt misses by a country fucking mile. The key relationship at the supposed “heart” of screenwriter Andrew Barrer’s story center’s around shy, awkward Evan meeting neighbor-girl Sam (Liana Liberato), who’s being badly abused by her drunken-ass father, and striking up a rather dull and uninspiring teenage romance with her. There’s not much out in BF Egypt to do for fun, though, so when the youthful lovebirds find an old radio in the attic, they decide to play around with the thing — and to keep messing with it even after it becomes clear that this particular radio can be used to communicate with the dead.
You see where this is going, right? Pretty soon the very same malignant force that killed the Morello family in that very same house has been unleashed again to pursue its very same ghoulish aims and everyone is in deadly danger, but the parents keep assuring the kids that there’s no such thing as ghosts no matter how plainly obvious it becomes that, hey, they’re wrong.
Carter’s flick has some decidedly good practical effects work to recommend in its favor (see the photo directly above), but not much more than that. The acting is generally pretty wobbly, the story’s a complete rehash of about 1,000 other (and better) movies, the characters are uniformly two-dimensional, there are no actual scares to speak of, and Carter’s early interest in his project obviously wanes at about the 15-minute mark. Unfortunately, there are roughly 70 minutes to go after that, and if you want to spend them traipsing around yet another run-of-the-mill haunted house, then by all means, keep watching. If not, do yourself a favor and bail on Haunt at that point as surely as its director did.