Featured DVD Review: Haunt
Haunt is an incredibly generic name for a horror movie. It is not surprising it struggled to find an audience with a name like that. However, was that the only reason? Or is the movie as generic as the name?
The movie begins with a man, who we later learn is Franklin Morello, looking over some pictures of his family before opening a wooden box with some antique electronics in it and reading a manual on Electronic Voice Phenomenon. He turns it on and gets it to work hearing the voices of his three kids. They tell him to be quiet and that she's coming. He doesn't listen and soon "she" arrives and kills him. (She is invisible, so for the most part all we see is the man struggling against nothing. It is not scary at all.) We then hear a voice-over from Janet Morello, the only surviving member of the Morello family describing how the family moved to that home looking for a new start. She was a pediatrician and he was a dentist and they planned to use the home to see their patients. But soon their three kids died and then so did their father.
Next we see a new family driving to their prospective new home, the Morello home. It's the Ashers, which includes a mother, Emily; a father, Alan; oldest daughter, Sarah; middle son, Evan; and youngest daughter; Anita. Their make up is just like the Morello family. As the Asher's explore their new home, we see flashes of the Morello family living in the home, or dead in the home. If the movie doesn't tone down how heavy-handed it is, it is going to be a hard slog to get through it.
After the Asher's buy the house and while they settling in, Janet Morello shows up. She left something in the house, a portrait of her dead son. She talks to Evan and reveals that her son was 18 when he died, the same age as Evan. More heavy-handedness. Meanwhile, we look in on Sam and her family life, which is violent. That night, Evan goes for a walk in the woods and runs into Sam, who is crying. Their first conversation is a little contentious, but they quickly become friends and soon fall in love.
Actually, there are a few more jump scares between them meeting and them falling in love.
One night, after another fight with her father, Sam sneaks out of the house and sneaks into Evan's bed. She asks Evan to protect her, which he promises to do. However, while they are sleeping, the door to the storage space in Evan's room opens and we see a flashback / dream sequence to when Janet Morello was happily living in the home. She sees a young woman with an infant and something happens that pretty much gives away the plot. The movie gives away the plot, when the plot really hasn't kicked in past first gear yet. It isn't until Sam and Evan begin to experience and investigate the paranormal activity that the plot moves, but the surprise twist is already been spoiled by that point.
Since we've hit spoilers, we might as well end the plot summary there. There's not a lot to talk about that I hadn't already mentioned. The plot is predictable and the execution is heavy-handed, so there's almost no tension in the movie. You can't have a horror movie without tension, so it fails at the most basic level. There are some individual scenes that are tense, but they can't built to anything, because we know how it will end. They try to compensate with too many jump scares, but it doesn't work. On the positive side, the acting was better than expected, given the genre and budget. Jacki Weaver is great in a supporting role and I really liked Liana Liberato and Harrison Gilbertson as the two leads. They have good chemistry together, but the script doesn't give them enough to work with. Not only is the dialogue weak, but there's very little in character development.
Extras begin with an audio commentary track with the director, Mac Carter. Next up is six interview featurettes with a number of the cast and a few of the crew. The total running is nearly 50 minutes, which is substantial. There are also two behind-the-scenes featurettes that look at some special effects, but combined they are only 4 minutes. There is a lengthier making of featurette. Morello Home Movies runs just over one minute and is basically the clips we see during the voice-over. Finally, there are five Morello Case File films, each about 1 minute long.
Haunt is a low-budget haunted house horror movie, so I wasn't expecting a wholly original experience. However, I was expecting more originality than I got, as well as much more mystery and tension in the story. The DVD has many more extras than I was expecting, but not enough to compensate for the quality of the film.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2014-06-10