An introvert teen befriends his new neighbour, and together the couple begin to explore the haunted house that his family has just purchased.
From the opening scene we are given a superbly creepy introduction into what might be a fantastic horror house ghost story. The dark, brooding and menacing undertones of an evil lurking in the shadows can be felt through the demise of our first tortured human soul. Don’t be alarmed; this is not a massive spoiler as it is this moment that sets out the premise for the film.
A family die one by one within a house in unexplained circumstances without rhyme or reason, leaving only Mrs Morello (Jackie Weaver) alive. Prior to the death of her husband, Franklin Morello (Carl Hadra) desperately sought answers to the gruesome departure of his children and he used a type of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) recorder. This is something, which is used to communicate with spirits; voices of the dead (spirits) can be heard and recorded. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t do him any favours and he met a tragic end. Thus is born “The Morello Curse”.
Weaver’s voice over which cuts in to tell her tale of tragedy combined with images of her very own ghost story will put the viewer in an uneasy disposition. It is quite haunting and it is at this point which I thought that I was in for a very scarefest of a ride – because lets face it, haunted houses, possessions and creepy ghosts in the dark have been done countless times before.
As the story progresses, the Asher family moves into the doom filled house – mum, dad and their three children. The main focal point of this family is the teenage son Evan (Harrison Gilbertson). Taking the best and the worst room of the house – the attic – he sets on a voyage of ghost exploration with a girl called Sam (Liana Liberato) whom he found crying alone outside in the cold.
Now it is from the introduction of Sam whereby the film begins to slowly ebb away into the murky waters of yet another haunted house story. I had to watch the film twice in order to try and work out where my interest began to wain. After much careful consideration I have put it down to Sam. It wasn’t from bad acting or lack of onscreen presence from Liberato, but I think it was down to Sam’s interactions with Evan and her whole back-story. Her movements within the story just didn’t seem to work and for the life of me, I cannot work out how she knew the house so well! She knew all about the EVP machine, where other items are stored and in one scene, she manages to in the dead of night, creep her way into Evans bed forgoing detection and locked doors? Lucky Evan you might say!
I just didn’t get her and from their first chance meeting, I wasn’t convinced that their newfound relationship would be remotely plausible within the real world. She didn’t seem to have any substance or depth of character, which is a great shame because I really feel that if the character of Sam had more development, it would make for a better watch.
The directorship for first time feature film maker Mac Carter was terrific and visually he did pull off some scares and jumps, which for a seasoned horror film fan it can become tricky to achieve such goals. From the outset the set up for the jumps might seem predictable but say during the first 30 minutes, the atmosphere and tension really worked into making those scares real.
If ‘Haunt’ could be reworked with a new version of Sam and modifications to the middle section – the beginning and end was rather good – I was definitely set this film to a higher rating. But because of faults I have just mentioned I have to unfortunately bring it down a notch.
However, in saying that, I feel sure that many people would want to watch this and if you are one those people, remember to turn off all lights and grab your own EVP because from personal experience, they do work.
Words by Amanda Hunt (@man_ders11)