haunt | scott beck | bryan woods | katie stevens | will brittain | lauryn alisa mcclain | halloween | slasher | thriller | united states | andrew caldwell | shazi raja | schuyler helford | phillip johnson richardson | chaney marrow | justin marxen | terri partyka
Director: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods
Writer: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods
Starring: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain and Lauryn Alisa McClain
This was a film that I really knew nothing about. A friend online shared in a group that he caught this and was recommending everyone supports this as he really enjoyed it. I saw my theater was playing it so I gave one of the last viewings a shot. Since I knew nothing aside from the title and a vague idea of the premise, I’ll do the same here. The synopsis is on Halloween, a group of friends encounter an ‘extreme’ haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some nightmares are real.
Right before the film actually starts, we are given glimpses of the extreme haunt being set up. We see a wire threaded around some pipes and we get the opening credits. It then shifts to a pumpkin getting thrown at a door. Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain) checks to see what the noise was and watches a truck leaving. It then shifts to Harper (Katie Stevens). She is looking at text messages and we see her putting concealer on over her bruised eye. Bailey knocks and comes into her room, stating what her boyfriend did. Harper displays the typical abusive relationship response that he wouldn’t do that. She is then invited out to join Angela (Shazi Raja) and Mallory (Schuyler Helford) for a Halloween party at a bar. She declines at first, but we see her send the text, breaking up with her boyfriend and agreeing to come out. It should also be pointed out that Bailey borrows a ring that belonged to Harper’s mother.
There we see Bailey go up to a guy, Nathan (Will Brittain). She is excited to see him, but she just leaves while he asks her a question. Following some mix-up, Harper also goes up to him, thinking he was waving her over. The two do end up hitting it off though, until his friend Evan (Andrew Caldwell) hits her with a drink. Harper wants to leave and we see her requesting an Uber to her mother’s house. She cancels it and gets a weird text from her boyfriend. She then sees someone in a creepy costume staring at her. Nathan comes out and convinces Harper to stay out. As the group decides what to do, they find a flier for an extreme haunted house and start heading that way.
Things take a turn when Harper thinks that Sam (Samuel Hunt), her boyfriend, is following them. She has Evan turn and then pull off to see if her fears are correct. What this does is lead them right to the extreme haunt. They decide to give it a try and meet a creepy Clown (Justin Marxen) at the door. Waivers are given and phones are put into a lockbox. They go in and at first it seems like just a normal haunted house, with some scary and sometimes cheesy things. That is until Mallory disappears and Bailey is hurt. That is when they realize, this nightmare could be more real than they thought and that what is underneath these creepy masks is scarier.
Now for that recap, I didn’t want to reveal too much of the story, but I thought I needed to fit in a lot of back-story that is pertinent to the story. The big thing here is that I love the setting. I don’t go to a lot of haunted houses and I’ve never been to an extreme one. I think that using this setting is genius. It is somewhere that you are disarmed in the idea that this could all be staged. I like this idea, because murders could start happening without even realizing.
This is also a modern slasher that I can get behind. We don’t really get a lot of them and good number of those tends to go on the cheaper side. Not to say that this one is has a huge budget, but that really did make it work. It almost feels like taking a combination of slasher with a Saw or The Collector. Not to say we get a bunch of traps, but we do have the idea in here. This does have multiple people that are behind what is happening, so it does break that tradition slasher idea, especially we reveal what they look like.
Harper also brings an interesting back-story. She drops early on that she hasn’t been home in 4 years and it is revealed why. It makes so much sense why should still be with a guy like Sam despite what he is doing. Personally, I feel for her, but I also know the psychology behind it so it works. This is really her needing to be that ‘final girl’ where she has to find the strength within her before it is too late.
I want to shift next to the pacing and editing. I would say that the latter is used well. The group splits in a two at one point as the maze offers a safe and not safe option. I think it strategically moves between the two. From there, we never really see the group back together as a whole and they even toss in showing us what the villains are doing behind the scenes. I think that works to build tension here. I like that they didn’t over-explain it or give us some cope out reason this is happening. The ending I wasn’t expecting, but I thought it definitely works for what the film is building.
That moves me to the acting of the film. Stevens I thought was a solid lead here. We see that in the beginning she is broken. She doesn’t even want to come to this haunted house, but I like that she has to build her broken strength to survive this. She is also quite attractive. Brittain is the solid male lead here. He is the one that is pushing Harper in a good way. Their dynamic I thought was good. McClain, Raja and Helford are all solid as well as attractive. Angela does have a bit of that ‘know-it-all’ attitude as someone in her family has done it. It was pretty funny. Caldwell brought some laughs as well. I like they didn’t go overboard with it and that pretty much stopped when the tension ramped up. Humor is a way of coping with fear and it seems real even though everyone is hiding it. All of the masked people running the haunt are creepy and a lot of that is the masks and them not talking. It gets even more when they take them off. With that said, I think the rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed.
Shifting next to the effects, as I kind of said this does have a bit of feel of those ‘torture porn’ films. Now I hate this term and this film doesn’t fall in that ‘movement’. We get some practical effects of things that happen that looked good. There is some CGI, but I will give credit that they give us a glimpse before cutting away. That’s knowing how to use it so we can’t dissect it by seeing it too much. The look of the killers is really good and quite creepy if I’m honest. I’d also say that the film is shot very well.
Now with that said, this one I came in blind to and I’m so glad that I did. I think this has such a great premise of being an extreme haunt on Halloween. The setting is great and making a modern slasher inside of it works. I think there’s some good heart and back-story here that makes sense. It has a good running time, builds tension and never gets boring. It has an intriguing ending as well. The acting I thought was fitting for what was needed. I would have liked to see the effects go more practical, but I think they did work. The masks and the killers themselves look good. The soundtrack didn’t really stand out to me, but it fit for what is needed. With that said, I had a lot of fun with this film and I would venture to say, this could become a staple of my Halloween viewing going forward. I think this is a good movie overall.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10