Director: Mac Carter.
Writer: Andrew Barrer.
Cast: Harrison Gilbertson, Liana Liberato, Jacki Weaver and Ione Skye.
Haunt is an indie horror feature from first-time director Mac Carter. As well, the film was developed from one of writer Andrew Barrer’s first scripts. And the central cast is a young twosome: Liana Liberato and Harrison Gilbertson. All of this newness should create for a few interesting bits. But Haunt is a fairly straight-forward haunted house horror tale. Only a few jump scares and an interesting late reveal, in the story department, create any intrigue.
In the story, a large manor serves as the film’s focal point. Here, the Morello family were cursed by spirits of a netherworld. Five family members were tormented, until all three of the Morello’s children died; none of these deaths were natural. Now, several years later, the Asher family are hoping to double-down in this haunted locale. But, even more ghosts come out of the woodwork, leaving a young romance to die in its wake. This viewer’s attention also started to die in the middle of Act II.
Pacing issues aside, Carter and the film crew for this feature know how to create a solid jump scare. Demonic spirits continually crossed the foreground in a quick fashion. Or, a young ghost, with shady eyes, would pop up from behind a door. There were several instances of jump scares in Haunt and each one seemed to get this watcher. These quick scenes offer a few unsettling moments.
Still, the story for Haunt is a little too straight-forward. Events occur in a fairly simple fashion. A sideplot involving child abuse offers an interesting element to the character Sam (Liberato). However, other characters are given little to no back story. Complexity in characterizations is one writing element that can hold a story together; this story element is not found here. As well, the script for Haunt is missing any misdirection. The film introduces a spirit through a medium (an Electronic Voice Phenomena radio), two teenagers set out to solve the identity of the spirit and the spirit’s identity is then revealed late in the picture. Viewers will not have to work too hard to figure out who is responsible for what. A few more sideplots and misdirections could have kept the film’s central plotline in mystery and mystery is one element that is mostly missing in this horror outing.
Haunt is well shot, with Carter’s night shooting especially well done. Haunt was filmed in Salt Lake City, Utah and the winter night’s look particularly cold. The interactions between Sam and Evan (Gilbertson) are captured well, with the awkwardness of teen romance captured well. Though, it would have been interesting to see the film’s ghost shot outside of the film’s central setting. Overall, the action onscreen is filmed impressively.
Overall, Haunt plods along at a decent pace, but the film feels tiresome, despite its short run time (eighty-six minutes). Though well shot, the characters onscreen and the central story line are not enough to keep the film interesting. The sparse action elements and a couple of difficult interactions do not make for compelling film. Haunt is just another haunted house tale in an overstuffed sub-genre, in which films need more surprises and interesting characters to standout from the crowd.
Overall: 6.25 out of 10.