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Film Review: Haunt (2019)

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SYNOPSIS:

On Halloween, a group of friends encounter an “extreme” haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some monsters are real.”

REVIEW:

HAUNT is written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A QUIET PLACE, an incredible movie.) and produced by Eli Roth (HOSTEL, THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS, and CABIN FEVER).

We find a group of friends going to a haunted attraction. WHAT could go wrong? (If this was the HALLMARK channel. I’d imagine nothing could go wrong. But, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods wrote this, Eli Roth is involved and Damian Maffei plays a Devil so…… EXCITING!)

Grab the popcorn and hide the sharp objects. HAUNT is a slasher fan’s dream.

The sounds of sawing and a whirling drill…. Someone is hard at work constructing what is probably going to be a death trap.

And now the cast of incredibly creepy masked folks as followed, the Clown is played oh-so-well by Justin Marxen, the Witch (Terri Partyka), the Vampire (Justin Rose), the Zombie (Schuyler White), the Ghost (Chaney Morrow), the Devil (Damian Maffei) We should note the fun way the mask remind you of being a kid in the eighties mask that were never comfortable. (We still loved them and wore them.)

Harper (Katie Stevens), the sensible one of the group. The Jamie Lee Curtis of the group. The Little Red Riding Hood if you will. (I loved the references and taking fight or flight to the next level.)

Harper covering up tears and fighting with her boyfriend. A NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), plays in the background. Reminding us to never forget the classics, the originals, and George A. Romero.

Harper is having a conversation with Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain) Angela (Shazi Raja) and Mallory. (Schuyler Helford) They convince Harper to go out with them and avoid “boyfriend drama.” Bailey is full of sass. We love her.

Harper’s red hoodie becomes her costume. Little Red Riding Hood. They all go out and have fun. Harper and Nathan are chatting. Evan (Andrew Caldwell) is dressed as a HUMAN CENTIPEDE. (WOW!)

Harper deals with some bullshit and phone nonsense. She sees the Devil, flirts with Nathan. They leave the club and what to do next?

Was the Devil handing out fliers? BOOM! A HAUNT!

The group of friends arrive at the haunted attraction. A Clown greets them.  The Clown acts sinister and seems to have a side gig as a mime but he is doing his job. He hands Bailey a key and they are given waivers to sign. Evan and Nathan are talking shit to the Clown. Bailey reads the “rules” on the waiver. NO WAY!

“Is this supposed to be scary?” You spoke too soon.

The tons of fun Clown opens the garage. It seems okay so far. There is a fun tunnel that gives you vertigo, messes with perception, I would imagine. A fun room with mirrors, a Witch. We do love a good Witch. (Terri Partyka does a good job) The Witch is putting on a “show” and has a girl in a body bag and pleading for help? (The pleading, screaming girl woke up my dog.)

Is it a gag? Oh, so much fun. Nah. These kids don’t buy it. They keep on going.

They wind up in a maze labeled with arrows and the ever so comforting, “safe” and “not safe.” Which way would you go?

Some of them wind up in what looks like JIGSAW just finished part of his masterpiece after watching HOSTEL over and over.

The one part of the maze has spider webs galore and spiders. Then they are led to wooden coffins. I am sorry but NO! NO NO NO! NOPE! Go back. I yelled they didn’t listen. What can you do?

We find Harper, Mallory, and Evan goes into these wooden coffins. Mallory sees spiders… LOTS of spiders. This haunt plays on fears. This movie isn’t hokey. It does give us a few jump scares but it also shows what people can do when they are deranged.

The other group of kids Nathan, Bailey and Angela wind up in the mirror maze. I would have said, go ahead, guys. I’ll be in the car… at the store. Call me when you are done. Cool! Good. Okay.

But, that takes away the fun. I must admit when they are crawling through those box tunnels. I was waiting for someone to stab them or something? (Such nice thoughts.)

Uh-Oh, we lost Mallory. (Travel in groups people) Now we have Bailey, Angela, and Nathan reaching into what looks like a giant x-ray machine to “guess the body parts.” NOPE!

Meanwhile…. Over in a place, I would never go. Harper and Evan meet and stare at for a few seconds… The Devil…. He turns on the lights. (Super helpful, so he can see to kill them. SMART!)

Mind you they see him, they are unbothered. (Did they watch THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT?)

He follows them… very slowly and how you could imagine the Devil lurking and following you in some dark corridors.

I wasn’t worried about the others, not even the Clown. It felt sort of…. Oh, this will be tons of not fun. Then we get the man who saunters in wearing a mask and robes and acting all sketchy and shifty. I would have left. I would have left my friends. GOODBYE! Tell the Devil, see you later! I digress.

They hesitate but still go and walk up some stairs and then go down a slide and wind up with a chainsaw-wielding dude with a Zombie mask on. (Leatherface, is that you?)  The Zombie dude is reminded that he’s in Evan’s “safe space.”

Harper and Evan minus Mallory find Nathan, Angela, and Bailey. Bailey’s injured. What to do?

Welp, we found Mallory. She is now the girl in the body bag with a Witch holding a hot poker, hovering over her. Mallory is zip-tied up in the body bag and not moving. (Is she acting?”) The sketchy Witch puts the hot poker through her head. I don’t think this is supposed to happen. (Did they read the waiver?) Hot poker to the head and curtains close. Everyone is in shock. Is it real? Is it fake? That was indeed a moment of who is behind the curtain. It isn’t a wizard.

Evan has lock picking skills, (Nice HEAT reference.)

Harper is questioning her friends and decisions she makes. Nathan (Will Brittain) got keys between his fingers. He is going for “help.” Good luck with that.

Evan is trying to find something to open the door. They are reaching under a fence while Bailey looks like she is dying. They are trying to get the poker thing?

We see someone walk out that startles poor Nathan. This dude is dressed like a creeper version of Ghostface from SCREAM. The masks make this creepier. We also find out the Ghost dude isn’t helpful. Nathan also drops the key!

(Okay, one of them should have kept a phone. You know, by now someone would be on Instagram #NeverComingHereAgain and posting pictures.)

The Ghost “call me Mitch” seems like he is helping but (Is she bleeding?”) I wouldn’t trust him. He leads them down creepy hallways and Evan is upset and gets in his face, well his mask. Harper tries explaining it a little better. I am not sure but I would imagine the Ghost man’s expression was blank. There are six of them and one Ghost dude. Harper and Bailey share stories while they wait for help.

Angela gets her hand crushed. The Ghost man has “keys.” Evan gets the poker and they want to talk to the “manager.” This movie touches so many nerves.

They decide to go backward. Harper gets the main keys to access the doors. That doesn’t help anybody. This is nerve-racking. This movie hits a lot of spots and then just as I said, never trust a man dressed as a Ghost. He is trapping them like trapped animals. This is something subtle but it makes it scary because now you know shits about to get worse.

They are being tormented, trapped, toyed with and the Devil shows up again. He makes an entrance. This time he is wielding a pitchfork.  And, well he isn’t being nice either. Angela meets the pitchfork. He is not messing around.

Harper BETTER RUN! We all know Mr. Maffei mastered the art of no, you run, I’ll walk and catch you. Poor, Bailey is in the wooden tunnels, bleeding to death and Nathan is knocked out after falling through a trap door. The Ghost dude warned him.

Are we sure JIGSAW isn’t involved? (Looks around for JIGSAW)

Bring in the Clowns… or, well One Clown. One creepy, sinister Clown with a box. The Ghost dude is back. He was lurking in the shadows.

Uh- Oh, Harper ran and didn’t get far. The Devil found her. She is pleading and pleading while he taunts and hovers over her. He is going to show her his face and have a conversation. Of course. Why not!

Anyone can put on a mask and try to be scary but, Kane Hodder who with just a look or a stance can scare the shit out of someone. Andrew Bryniarski who played Thomas Hewitt (Leatherface) in the 2003 TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960) that was some scary stuff. Hannibal Lecter in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991). The character is legendary but when they wheel him in wearing the mask, he becomes something more dangerous. Michael Myers as he stands and stares, tilting his head.

Something is terrifying about a masked killer. Art the Clown and well, clowns in general.  You don’t know what the expression is, you don’t know what is going on.

There is Sam in TRICK ‘R TREAT, Ghostface in SCREAM. SAW, YOU’RE NEXT, TORMENTED, STAGE FRIGHT, Cupid in VALENTINE. DONNIE DARKO, the rabbit. We can’t forget our friendly folks from THE PURGE.

It is the movements, the subtle body language. He lurks and moves in certain ways. You don’t exactly know what to expect from this Devil character. He isn’t playing the “straight-up crazy” card. You do know he won’t quit. And his weapon of choice never seems to hinder him in any way.

Enough about masked murderers. The phones are found. The Clown has them. Isn’t that always how it is? Okay, we meet Sam. He will save everybody. He is also Harper’s “alcoholic boyfriend.”

Meanwhile, Harper is having some kind of battle with a door and trying to keep the Devil out. But the Devil is tormenting Harper and gets in. He is causing minor mischief and despair to the poor girl. He looks badass though, does the mask come off? Does it stay on? Watch the movie! He toys with Harper some more until Nathan finds a nail gun and shoots at the poor Devil. Rude!

The Ghost reveals some things he shouldn’t have to Evan. The Clown is microwaving phones to destroy them.

This is GREAT! This attraction is super fun. Let’s do it again next year.

That gives an entirely new meaning to “hammer time.” HAUNT leaves you on-edge. I felt my heart in my throat a few times. Harper is led to a bucket after intense cardio. A bucket that is hanging in the air. That’s not weird at all. Nathan has found Harper’s ring and a phone in the Clown’s office. Imagine the meetings these guys have?

The switching back and forth from Harper to Nathan is interesting because you get to see a little more of the HAUNT. Harper also steps on a nail and somehow we see EVIL DEAD. Nathan is hiding behind a tarp now in the office of the Clown/Devil/Ghost/Witch/Zombie/Vampire incorporated. (I am guessing that is what the office is called.)

The Ghost is back and waiting for him. Never come out right away when you are hiding from someone or someone wearing a mask in a HAUNT.

They will most likely not be far from you or waiting close by. Scott and Bryan get the timing and moments that need to happen fairly accurate. Nathan got the phone, fought with the masked Ghost man.

Harper is now in another part of the HAUNT that she probably now fully regrets this experience. There is an ESCAPE ROOM. Is it though? Puzzles are fun. Locks and doors that don’t open. Wallpaper from the seventies, creepy dolls that can see the soul. Harper finds one doll with a possible answer. It tells her, “Something is hiding under the bed.” Again, I beg, I plead, I make suggestions. Nobody listens. It’s a movie. But, she goes to bed and removes the blankets.

Harper is about to go under the bed… DON’T DO IT!

This movie is driving me insane. I am waiting for someone to grab her, or be on top of the bed and look under the bed. There is a weird jack in the box under the bed. Now, banging on the door, well, smashing on the door.

Harper is having flashbacks to hiding under the bed. This is such a poignant part of the movie. It shows her willingness to keep fighting.

I would imagine though she should run or hide somewhere else, anywhere else. But, nooooo she is going to stay under the bed while the Devil comes in. Yes, again. He is terrorizing and taunting with the pitchfork. She gets the key though. It is a TRAP! The door opens but it comes with a price. There is a shotgun involved and oh yeah, the Devil is still kicking.

Harper is a fighter though. Harper is fighting with the Devil. Someone always loses an eye. Harper keeps fighting, she is crawling now. This is good. That’s the spirit! Never give up!

Sam (Samuel Hunt) is on his way in his trusty pick-up truck. The Clown meanwhile seems to be hijacking a truck. He turns the lights on in this HAUNT and Bailey becomes Death.

Sam arrives… with no weapons. Not even a flashlight. (I am concerned.)

Sam is interrupting the Clown. That never ends well. He gets shot in the neck. Those Clowns are tricky. They play on so many fears and weird things I have heard over the years. Sam tries to get his cell phone and gets his hand smashed.

Harper is still running, still fighting. The masked Zombie with the chainsaw found Harper. His mannerisms don’t seem as threatening even with him wielding a chainsaw. Harper takes care of him pretty easily. The masked Ghost man gets Nathan again. Dude, stay away from the Ghost man. Come on!

Harper sees Sam, looks sad for a moment but realizes there are still some masked people they didn’t take care of.

The Vampire masked man wants to give up! He wants to throw in the towel for murder. Too much work. Also as they let him lead the way. WHY!?  The Vampire masked man took advantage of a moment and all hell broke loose.

Harper has to battle a Witch now. The Witch has her trapped, Nathan helps out a little bit. By now Harper has had enough of everyone’s shit.

She drops a house on that Witch. (In her way.) They finally get out. THEY GET OUT! Do you hear the choir! I do. Nathan has a battle of his own to fight with one of the masked men. Meanwhile, the Clown decides to light the HAUNT on fire. Well, what are they going to do next year? A new HAUNT? New location?

Harper gets a wounded, defeated Nathan to the hospital and guess what. There are people in the hospital. That is kind of a first. Nope, never mind. Too good to be true. Harper is having a dream. The Clown shows up in her dream. She wakes up in a hospital.

The white picket fence says so much in this movie. It speaks volumes to what people believe and what they see to be a reality when life is not always what it seems to be.

Harper wakes up and is in pain, sees her ring. There are some people in the hospital. The Clown is also on the loose.  The hunter becomes the prey. It is poetic in many ways. Harper is packing and so tired of the bullshit. She has had enough. I took away a few things from this movie.

Life isn’t what it seems on the inside or the outside.

Everyone wears a mask. Horror films are meant to be fun and scary but they can serve up a few life lessons. Scott Beck and Bryan Woods made a movie that can be watched every year and at Halloween.

This is a movie that you can watch and have fun watching with friends or turn off all the lights and watch it by yourself or turn on all the lights and make sure the door is locked.

This cast did a good job. Katie Stevens played Harper with courage. She took the trauma that her characters younger self suffered through and turn it into the will to keep fighting. The masked group of folks certainly sent some shivers up and down the spine.

We also get a beautifully eerie performance of Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” sung by Lissie in the end credits. lissie.com/

“From the writers of A QUIET PLACE AND PRODUCER ELI ROTH.”

IN THEATERS AND ON DEMAND SEPTEMBER 13TH.

HAUNT

www.imdb.com/title/tt6535880/

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