Arguably, nobody has been able to inject fear into the world of haunted horror attractions since Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse back in the 80s, but in a world where what is old is new again, it comes as no surprise that someone would look to breathe new life into this well trodden sub-genre, after all, who doesn’t like to see scary attractions ripped at the seams along with the unwitting victims who dare to venture beyond its walls?
We’ve seen some half decent efforts in recent years from the likes of Blood Fest and Hell Fest, but I think it’s pretty fair to say that the latest production from Eli Roth takes a damn good stab at twisting it into a bold new direction.
In the wake of extreme haunted houses such as McKamey Manor, where people voluntarily subject themselves to extreme bouts of torture, Haunt casts itself into a world where the fine line between pleasure and pain is well and truly in dark territory.
As you can expect from a Roth production, the kills are bloody with the gore level amped up to the max, which normally I find hard to bare, but in this instance I was along for the ride and if anything felt those moments not only cranked up the tension, but left you feeling unnerved in a satisfactory way.
The masked villains were also suitably camp and added to the heightened sense of agitation and wrath that is dealt out on the victims foolish enough to enter their domain and play their game. Herein lies the rub however, as the victims themselves are indeed foolish and fall prey to two-dimensional characterisation, so much so that we are beyond caring about what happens to them, which is a shame as Haunt was ripe for potential. Too much style and focus was paid to the villains and the set pieces, ala Saw that the writers neglected the one essential ingredient. You gotta add depth to the main characters, to build that connection with your audience, so that when the pendulum swings, we give a damn about whether or not they live or die.
By the time the conclusion starts to come into sight, the writing pushes into the ridiculous where certain characters appear to withstand death blows in order to avoid meeting their maker.
With a little bit more care and dedication to character depth and background, Haunt could have been a modern classic. Unfortunately, the film rests on imagery and admittedly some gnarly death scenes, but without the prime quality cut steak, you’re just left with gristle.
- Saul Muerte