Haunt - Haunt(Blu Ray) [Ronin Flix - 2021]
Haunt is a 2019 thriller/ horror film that finds a group of twenty-somethings going to a rundown creepy walkthrough on Halloween night. It’s a film that switches from building unease and dread to a gory-bound stalk ‘n’ hack in its last quarter. I’d heard great things about the film when it first came out, & dug the trailer, but for some reason or another didn’t get around seeing it- until now. Here from Ronin Flix is a new special edition Blu Ray of the film- taking in a host of new & old extras- such as two commentary tracks, a making-of doc, and more.
Haunt was jointly directed and written by Denver, Colorado-born Scott Beckand Davenport and Iowa, born Bryan Woods who are most known as the co-writers of A Quite Place I, II & III. One of the film's producers is Eli Roth, and you can certainly say there are Roth traits here. The touches of Jock like humour, good attention to creepy location, and torture bound gore in the latter part of the film- but it also feels informed/ influenced by the likes of The Strangers- with its uneasy atmosphere and silent masked figures, as well as classic Halloween horror, and later brutal stalk ‘n’ slash.
The film is set in a small-town rural American focusing on troubled brunet Harper(Katie Stephens)- she’s seemingly in a troubled relationship with a boozing boyfriend and has issues with her stepfather in the past. One Halloween night she, and four or five of her friends go out clubbing, in the club, they meet likeable jock character Nathan (Will Brittain)- he and Harper hit it off, so he tags along when the group go looking for someplace to hang out after the club. While driving in the countryside the group come across a sign for a haunted house- so they decide to check it out, they find a gate and fenced rundown large industrial unit. As they approach the building a silent figure with a small plastic clown mask approaches- it says nothing, just handing them a key- this opens a box on the nearby wall- inside they find contacts which asks them to put the phones in the box, so all seems fairly standard. As the group goes into the Haunt- it all seems very rundown, grimy, with a few tacky-if-jarring jumps along the way. As they carry on, they come across more masked and silent figures: Witch, Devil, Ghost, Zombie- and slowly but surely things go from creepy to brutal.
The most impressive/ rewarding thing about Haunt is the tangible feeling of dread, unease, and growing fear that is expertly built in the first three-quarters of the film. With a largely stripped back soundtrack and subtle creepy sound design, added to by the eerily nuanced performers of the stalkers, and the rundown shadowy grimy look of the building itself. The cast of friends seem believable/ relatable enough- so this of course pulls you in more. Where things do slightly go awry is when the stalkers are unmasked- they are doing something fairly original with who/ what they are, but it does lessen the creep/ dread impact, and with the unmasking, we get jarring moments of brutal gore when it was largely bloodless before.
I felt Haunt was certainly one of the better modern horror films I’ve seen in recent memory- with the first three quarters really packing some chilling atmospheric punch and effective/well-placed jumps. The last quarter is still ok, though there are a few issues- including some of the editing feeling a little muddled, the already mentioned unmasking’s, and the end feels a little tacked on/ unneeded. But on the whole, I’d say it deserves the praise that has been given to the film, and if you’re looking for a blend of creepy-to-later gory bound Halloween horror Haunt certainly fits the bill, and I can see it going onto been a cult classic.
Moving onto this locked region A disc- and we get a good selection of new/ archive extras. Of the new stuff, we get a commentary track from actors Justin Marxen (Clown), Chaney Morrow (Ghost) and Damian Maffei (Devil). This, as expected, is a decidedly chatty track- they move from talking about how their lives have been impacted since the film came out, going on to discuss the make-up/ costumes for the picture. As we go on & each appears on the screen, they discuss filming certain scenes, funny stories, and general chat about the shooting of the picture. All in all, it’s certainly worth a play track. Next, we get a thirty-two-minute making of- this starts with the directors going back to their local haunt that influenced the story. As we move on we get interviews with all the cast, as well more input from the directors- with pictures from the main films set, which was a fully built haunt. We get interviews with the SFX team and those who did the soundtrack/ sound design. Lastly of the new stuff, we get a short intro to the film by the two directors
Moving onto the archive side of things, and we get a good bunch of stuff: Audio Commentary with writers/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, Behind the Haunt featurette, The Sound of Haunt featurette, Deleted Scenes with an introduction by Scott and Bryan, Popcorn Frights Q & A with Scott, Bryan and some of the cast, Egyptian Theatre Premiere Q & A with Scott and Bryan moderated by producer Eli Roth, Short Film: The Sleepover – Scott and Bryan’s first film, Director’s Diary & Theatrical Trailer.
It’s always great to check out a modern horror film that I’ve heard lots of positive things about, and coming away feeling generally impressed/ taken by the film, instead of the normal disappointment. So I’d say if you like mixes of creepy thriller and gory tense horror- then you need to be checking out Haunt- and this Ronin Flix special edition release is most certainly the way to see it. Roger Batty