Saturday, June 28, 2014

Horror Film Review

Haunt (2014):  Another angry spirit flick where a hapless family moves into a haunted house and thinks what happened to the previous owners couldn't possibly happen to them because ghosts, of course, aren't real.  Right.  Watch a horror movie, people! 

It starts with an older guy trying to communicate with members of his dead family via a steampunk spirit box.  No explanation how it's supposed to work, but it does look pretty groovy.  Anyway, the angry spirit shows up, possesses him, and forces the guy to kill himself.  Sort of.  So who's the angry spirit?  No clue.  Do we ever find out?  I watched this film weeks ago and the answer to that question still pisses me off.

The Asher family moves into the house that locals deem "cursed."  The odd thing about them is that unlike families in most horror flicks, they're well adjusted and actually get along.  No insipid soap opera drama crap with pouty children, angst-ridden teens, or abusive parents.  It's a nice change, to be honest.  Eighteen year-old Evan (Harrison Gilbertson) is a sweet kid who runs across a crying Sam (Liana Liberato) in the woods.  Sam's father isn't so sweet.  She and Evan get close, she hangs out at his house, and they discover a steampunk spirit box tucked away in the attic.  Only good things could come from this, right?  Sam's obsessed with finding out if there's an afterlife...and what happened in Evan's cursed house.  See, she's much more than a neighbor.  Turns out her real father (Carl Hadra) had cheated on his doctor wife (Jacki Weaver) with Sam's mother who, after giving birth to Sam, was murdered by the wife who also killed her own children.  Here's the perplexing part...the wife didn't get caught and still lives in the area. 

In the end, Evan and Sam are in the house alone, crank up the spirit box, and bad things follow.  It's at this time my enjoyment of the film ended.  SPOILERS FOLLOW.  Sam becomes possessed, kills Evan, and then tries to tear up the attic floorboards to get at what's underneath.  Before she can, Evan's family returns and she's carted off by the police.  What was she trying to uncover?  A skeleton that we're led to assume once housed the spirit that's now angry and possessing Sam.  But whose skeleton?  Ah, now we're back to what pisses me off.  I.  Don't.  Know.  Probably Sam's murdered mother. But why would she possess her own daughter and then kill her boyfriend?  I'm sure it was all clear in the heads of the filmmakers.  Too bad they forgot to share it with the rest of us.

I really did like this movie up until the cocked up final act.  Good pacing, likable characters, dialogue that doesn't make your eyes roll, and a mildly interesting plot.  What an unbelievable waste. 

The Skinny

Acting:  Brian Wimmer as Evan's dad is a bit of a goofy ham, but Ione Skye as his mother is excellent.  The other kids do well.  And Weaver's understated performance borders on disturbing.
Story:  Nothing new here.
Direction:  Rarely have I seen a narrative flow this seamlessly.  Up until the end, that is. 
Production Values:  No budget information but it's not a cheapie.  No complaints regarding the technical aspects.  They shot it in Salt Lake City so the exteriors aren't exactly ugly.
Gore/FX:  Very little blood and no gore.  The obligatory CGI ghosts aren't bad at all.
Scares:  Oh, yes.  One of the few movies I've seen that got me.  Repeatedly.  You may just want to save yourself the trouble and wear a diaper.
Ending:  See my previous comments.  Grrr....
Verdict:  Should you see Haunt?  If you like ghost flicks that make you feel stupid, then go for it.  To be fair, you will jump and you will be scared.  Maybe that should be enough...but it's not, is it?

Rating:  3 out of 5

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