John’s Horror Corner: Haunt (2013), unoriginal but recommendable for excellent character development
MY CALL: Loads of plot holes and an unoriginal story…yet, I swear, this is an enjoyable worthwhile haunting film due to excellent direction, production and character development. MORE MOVIES LIKE Haunt: Mama (2013), Shadow People (2013), The Uninvited (2009) and White Noise (2005) all successfully utilize many of the same concepts and styles of Haunt.
The opening of this pleasant surprise introduces us to two concepts. One of them is Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP)–the ultra-creepy premise for White Noise (2005)–and the other is the simple notion that every ghost story begins with a house and a tragedy. Our present tragic backstory is most effectively narrated by victim Janet Morello (Jacki Weaver; Stoker, Animal Kingdom).
Years after the “Morello Curse” claimed the lives of Janet’s husband and three kids, the Asher family–also with two girls and a boy–moves into the ill-fated home. In no time Evan meets his love interest, the troubled girl next door. As Evan gets to know his comely teen neighbor Sam (Liana Liberato; Trespass), we learn that she is emotionally guarded and domestically abused. But after a night of snuggling and a few hits off a joint she opens up and talks Evan into trying to communicate with the dead using an old radio tuned to white noise stations.
Not sure what got Evan into more trouble here… the “gateway drug” of marijuana or the fact that he’d probably do just about anything for this girl that he hasn’t slept with yet.
Things escalate and it becomes evident that Sam has a stronger connection to the house than Evan and the Ashers. As Sam and Evan freak out about their ghostly contact Evan’s older sister (Danielle Chuchran; Osombie) is legitimately concerned, Evan’s parents don’t take it at all seriously (no shock there), and Evan’s younger kid sister starts saying some disturbing things. Much as in Mama (2013), Poltergeist (1982) and many other haunting movies, his kid sister has a strong connection with the ghosts.
I mean, what young child WOULDN’T want to be friends with this friendly ghost?
Rookie director Mac Carter utilizes standard jump scare tactics, out-of-focus shadowy figures and cryptic flashback sequences to elicit a rather familiar style of fear. It’s nothing special or original, but the execution is clearly there and it works. In fact, the jumps scares’ effectiveness specifically leads me to recommend this as a good date movie.
I’m not familiar with any of the cast, but everyone seems to have done a fine job with their roles. Sam, Evan and Evan’s sisters are all effectively presented and they completely distract us from a plot which–while not being a blatant rip off of anything specific–is not at all original. In fact, if you reflect on the movie after watching it you’ll have a lot of questions that will go unanswered. Not surprisingly there is a twist ending, but it’s nothing wowing and it doesn’t entirely make sense of what we saw/learned in the flashback scenes. That said, despite the story flaws these characters (and their excellent development) along with capable film production and direction made this film a pleasant surprise and a decent overall jumpy experience. I recommend it.