DVD Review: “Haunt” Is Refreshingly Ominous

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Review by James McDonald

An introvert teen befriends his new neighbor, and together the couple begin to explore the haunted house that his family has just purchased.

I like what “Haunt” sets out to do. It’s a movie in the tradition of “Insidious” and “The Conjuring” and like a lot of the great ghost stories of the 1970s and the 1980s, it takes its time telling the tale. And I like that. There was a time, not too long ago, when scary movies thrust themselves down your throat no sooner had the film started and I hated that perspective. It’s what I call the “Michael Bay approach to filmmaking.” Throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the audience as fast as you can so they can’t keep up and then have to watch the movie a second time just to absorb what they missed the first time.

“Haunt” tells the story of a family, the Morellos, whose members begin to die off mysteriously. The father and three kids all die mysteriously but the mother, Janet Morello (Jacki Weaver) manages to survive and moves out of the house, filled with grief and sorrow. Some time later, a new family, the Ashers, move in and the eldest child, Evan (Harrison Gilbertson), begins to experience strange visions and nightmares. While out taking a walk one night, he meets Sam (Liana Liberato), a young girl who is visibly upset. They start talking and soon after we find out that she lives at home with an abusive drunk father who continuously hits her.

She escapes to Evan’s house to get away from the turmoil at home. She doesn’t know why she’s attracted to the house but the ending reveals that for us. One night, they find a box radio, a device for communicating with the dead and instructions on how to operate it and after reaching a malevolent spirit, strange things begin happening. As the story unfolds, Evan can hear whispers in the dark and he begins to suspect that Mrs. Morello might have had something to do with her family’s deaths and realize that they must turn the box radio on one more time. The acting overall was very convincing and is essentially what carries the film.

I also loved the cinematography by Adam Marsden. No shaky cam as we run after our protagonists through the woods, ala “The Blair Witch Project” or most other ‘found footage’ scenarios, instead, we have clear, beautifully-framed shots that allow us to see the action that is going on within the frame, not outside of it (cough, cough, “The Bourne Supremacy”). In an era of filmmaking that is filled with heinous torture porn and an overabundance of the aforementioned found footage gimmick, it was refreshing to watch “Haunt”, a movie that, while most certainly isn’t the most original story ever put on celluloid, is nonetheless, one that relies first and foremost, on story and character development, something that is sadly lacking in most other movies of its ilk.

In stores June 10th

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James McDonald
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