Forget all of the big-budget scare-fests in theaters this season. Despite all of the hype over killer clowns and brain-hungry zombies, one of the best horror flicks of the year is on a much smaller scale and taps into the fun surrounding one of the most common staples around this time of the year.
Haunted houses are all the rage, generating an estimated $400 million each year according to Hauntworld—the haunted house publication that serves as the industry’s bible. Having visited every haunted house in the Phoenix area a few Halloween’s ago, I can attest to incredible advances that technology and innovation have benefitted these attractions across the board.
However, none are as innovative as the one featured in “Haunt,” a new horror flick from writers/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. Even without the twists that ultimately await the movie’s main characters, the featured attraction is quite creepy. Think of the attraction—and the film itself—as a mix between “Escape Room” and the “Saw” franchise.
In “Haunt,” a group of friends encounters a haunted house on Halloween night that promises to feed on their darkest fears. As they enter, it is instantly clear that this is no ordinary haunt. But when the night turns deadly, they come to the horrifying realization that some monsters are real.
There is a small subplot involving one of the characters confronting the trauma of her past that attempts to give the movie more weight that it actually deserves. This merely serves as a distraction and is without a doubt the film’s weakest quality, reminding viewers that even excellent horror flicks like this often succumb to the hackneyed tropes of the genre.
However, the vast majority of the movie appears to know exactly what it is—a frightening little film that exists solely to provide its viewers with a hell of a lot of fun. Beck and Woods do not waste much time at all setting up the premise and allow us to enter the haunted house very shortly after the movie begins. Then, after some exploration of the amusement, the horror takes hold and does not let up for even a second.
“Haunt” is such an effective horror flick because Beck and Woods have designed the attraction at the center of the film in such a way that it takes on a life of itself and becomes one of the characters. They give us a chance to become familiar with its various nooks and crannies before letting us loose inside of it, knowing full well that there are areas that we have yet to experience.
Revealing exactly what happens over the course of the film would rob you of some of the fun. But suffice it to say that not everything is as it seems inside of the haunted house. In fact, the only thing scarier than the masks worn by the people tormenting the main characters is what is behind those masks.
And that is enough to make you a bit more leery of entering one of the many haunted attractions that will be popping up around the Valley over the next couple of months.