Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 306th review!
This pandemic has been for the birds. It’s ruined every holiday since March and now it’s getting its claws in Halloween when the holiday is on a Saturday, has a full moon AND is the one time a year you can fulfill Cher’s wish and turn back time. With that in mind I’ve been enjoying movies that celebrate the holiday, and what says Halloween more than haunted houses? So tonight I checked out...
Haunt (2019). Shudder
This is the second extreme haunt movie I’ve reviewed and I liked this one a whole lot more. This movie is very similar to The Houses October Built, but does just about everything better. The first thing you’ll notice that’s in Haunt’s favor; it’s not a found footage movie. So you don’t need to strain your eyes every two seconds as people run from blurry bad guys.
We meet a young college student named Harper who is using makeup to cover up a black eye from an abusive boyfriend. After some urging from her friend she sends him a two-word text, “It’s over.” Feeling a bit freer now, Harper and her friends go out for a night of partying. After the bar and a red herring, they end up at an extreme haunt where they give up their phones and head inside. As they travel through the maze things start happening and they begin to realize the scares a bit more real than they appear. It’s clearly inspired by several other movies and while it doesn’t do anything that different, it does everything really well.
This movie is a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It doesn’t do creepy as well and the group chemistry isn’t as believable as the group in The Houses October Built, but this one more than makes up for what it lacks. It doesn’t play with the “is it real or fake” aspect because it’s pretty early in the walkthrough where you and the people inside realize they’re in a whole lot of danger.
Think of the extreme haunt as something similar to the house of horror in Saw II. Everywhere they go has a possible trap door or some other little trick that will either kill or cause a whole lot of pain, the anticipation messes with you more than when they trigger it. What’s surprising about this movie, despite the opportunity to do it, there aren’t too many jump scares, and the ones that are there aren’t cheap. They’re built up, you know they’re coming, but they work anyway. It’s not so much scary, but it’s incredibly tense as they make their way through the building as these haunters are trying to murder them.
Be forewarned, this movie isn’t for the squeamish. It’s not too gory, but damn are the kills rough. The bad guys aren’t really into guns or blades, instead opting for blunt weapons like hammers or HHH’s weapon of choice, sledgehammers. The deaths are incredibly brutal and quick. I’ve seen movies like Hostel and Saw where every death gets dragged out to try and get the audience to really feel what these people are going for. I have to be honest, I found these quick deaths a lot more disturbing. It’s hard to explain, especially when horror movies love to make the suffering last, but these murders got to me a lot more than those other movies.
The plot is pretty basic, but it takes a few detours to set up a backstory for one of the main characters and that’s about it. Because of that you can guess early on what’s going to happen to which character and when. Once you finally meet the group, it’s glaringly obvious who are going to go quick and you’re able to figure out who are going to be the final two based on how much time the movie spends on them. Basically, if they’re given even a little backstory that goes beyond what they’re studying in college or occupation, they’re in it for the long haul. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The reason we have these tropes in horror is because they work. This movie isn’t trying to trick you or reinvent the wheel, it just wants to entertain you and I think it does its job very well.
The highlight of Haunt is when are protagonists are able to fight back. It feels good when the good guys manage to turn the table because they’re up against psychopaths. There are some deus ex machina moments, but you forgive them because they’re cool and you really want to see these assholes get their comeuppance. Every time one of the baddies buys the farm it is an awesome moment. I really enjoyed it, it’s fun, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and the protagonists, while mostly cannon fodder are easy to root for although it manages to use one of my most hated “movie tricks” for a character’s death. I don’t want to say who or what it is, but if you watch the movie, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
The ending though... woo boy it’s a good one. The last two minutes of this movie are fantastic, and I’m not exaggerating. I say this with all seriousness, if Becca and Lincoln were not sleeping next to me while I was watching, I would have cheered out loud, almost did to be honest. It’s such an awesome and bad ass moment!
8.5 Dr. Chainsaws!
Directed by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
On Halloween, a group of friends encounter an "extreme" haunted house which promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some nightmares are real. A SHUDDER EXCLUSIVE. Cast: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alisa McClain