Haunt (2013) *1/2
D: Mac Carter
C: Harrison Gilbertson, Liana Liberato, Ione Skye, Jacki Weaver, Brian Wimmer, Danielle Churchran
Plot Synopsis: A mother and father and their three teen-age children move to a new home that was the scene of a "personal tragedy". The son meets a mysterious neighbor girl and together they experiment with an old radio they find in the attic, that can be used to communicate with the dead. Something is unleashed that brings new horror.
Review: In Haunt, there's a creepy looking house. There's some creepy looking outdoor cinematography. Some of the special effects look creepy. And whenever a ghost appears on screen, the score blares to an all time high and the film's editor uses a bunch of sudden cuts to make the appearance of the ghost come off as disorienting. This leads to one of the chief problems with Haunt. It expects the cinematographer, the special effects team, the editor and the film's composer to do all the work that is required in making a scary film.
A smarter film would have known that one of the key ingredients in creating a successfully scary film is having an inherently scary story to tell. In Haunt, we meet a teenage boy (Gilbertson) who moves into a spooky house with his family. Said boy falls in love with one of his neighbors (played by Liana Liberato). The two of them talk to each other at night sharing insights into who they are. There conversations don't amount to much of anything, but there is a nice, unforced kind of chemistry between Gilbertson and Liberato.
From there, the two of them mess with a radio that allows them to talk to the dead. Guess what happens?!? They conjure a ghost. There's a confrontation between the ghost and the film's two younger lovers. After that, the two main characters try to resolve what's happening and there's a final reveal in the film's climax. To say that the film is under plotted is an under statement.
Since not much of anything happens in the film's first two acts, the very success of Haunt hinges on the final reveal. With that being said, once the reveal happens, almost everything that has happened in the film is rendered nonsensical.
Now bear with me as I try to talk about the film's final reveal and why it's nonsensical without giving away the final reveal. The ghost, in this film, has a distinct purpose. The actions that this ghost engages in, make sense in regards to one set of characters, but not with the other characters. The characters that are harmed the most by this ghost are simply bystanders and aren't really part of the ghost character's modus operandi. So why is this ghost so diligent in pursuing these characters that aren't really part of the master plan?!? I'll tell you why. It's so that the film can add a little extra bloodshed to the proceedings and provide a few extra cheap thrills.
Wrongheaded scenarios like this only go to further how transparent this whole enterprise is. Here's a little piece of advice for the people behind Haunt on their future endeavors. If you have an interesting story, audiences will forgive some of the film's shortcomings, if they are engrossed by the material at hand. However, since the story, at hand (in Haunt), has been poorly assembled, no matter how much you try to dress it up, a dog is still a dog (or a piece of crap is still a piece of crap -- ...well you get the idea). [R] 86 mins.
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