Monday, March 3, 2014

Mac Carter/Andrew Barrer's HAUNT opens, and TrustMovies gets a heavy-duty dose of déjà vu

Yet another family moves into yet another haunted house in yet another movie that hopes to wring a little something special from this done-to-death situation. Regarding HAUNT, directed by Mac Carter from a screenplay by Andrew Barrer, audiences may be forgiven for immediately mixing things up a bit, beginning with that rather derivative title, which brings to mind a bunch of other movies: HauntsHaunter, HauntersHaunted, The Haunting, and so on, into oblivion. Not to mention the fact that the somewhat over-used subject matter should call to memory another ten dozen films -- from the old Amityville Horror and its remake to the more recent Insidious and that hugely over-rated piece of bump-in-the-night badness, The Conjuring.

Perhaps to help us distinguish the movie, someone (maybe Mr. Carter, who is pictured at left) decided to give us a definition of the word haunt right upfront at the movie's opening, where we can't miss the fact that the definition used here is certainly nothing like the usual one. No: instead it highlights the fact that a "haunt" can be a spot where animals come to feed. Ah-hah, we think: you've certainly clued us in! And then we wait, through what seems like eons of nonsense, to get to that moment -- the very end, of course -- for the awaited feeding frenzy. This is bullshit, which also results in boring, bad movie-making.

I don't quite know why, but some very good actors -- Australia's Jacki Weaver (above), Ione Skye and relative newcomer Liana Liberato evidently signed on to this one, and all do their best with pretty woeful material. The exposition plods, we get the usual scary faces out of nowhere (below), jolting sound effects deafen us, and a naughty wooden box appears that may bring to mind a low-end Hellraiser.

None of this comes to much of anything -- except the expected carnage (the tiresome point of almost all the movies in this particular genre) -- and the "story," once we piece it together from the dribs and drabs the filmmakers have dropped along the way, turns out to be a seen-that/heard-that yawn.

Ms Liberato, above, is as fetching as ever, even with those darkened eyes, which genre fans will immediately recognize as a very bad sign, while the would-be hero and son of the family (played with youthful enthusiasm and stupidity by Harrison Gilbertson, below) makes all the wrong decisions (another genre "must," it seems) as he leads the way into bad, worse and worst. Yes, the film is atmospheric, but filmmakers, please: It takes more than atmosphere & a few overused scares to makes a good horror film.

Haunt has just about cured me of this particular genre, as I have not seen a decent variation on the theme for ages now. I may try Vincenzo Natali's Haunter, however, as that director (Cube, Cypher, Splice) usually does not disappoint. Meanwhile, this film -- from IFC Films and running too long, even at only 86 minutes -- opens this Friday, March 7, in New York and maybe elsewhere, after a run on VOD for the past month that will probably continue for awhile longer.

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