Netflix Roulette: Haunt

Sorry for the delay. I was visiting my parents this weekend for Father’s Day. I had planned on writing a post about how my father introduced me to so many great movies at a (very) young age, some of them of the horror variety. We once watched the Evil Dead trilogy in one sitting when I was fifteen. Instead of doing that though, I spent my time with the man himself. Yesterday, I had every intention of watching a movie but my brain decided to self-destruct as it does from time to time. I don’t know how many of you deal with migraines on a regular basis, but they’re awful (and by the way, if you’re one of those people who uses the term migraine to describe a really bad headache… please stop reading my blog… you’re awful (okay, that was a bit harsh… I know I should educate rather than ostracize, but since my head still feels like it took a Mike Tyson punch (and I mean Mike Tyson at his prime… not face-tattoo Tyson) every time I sneeze, I’m not feeling super open to discussion right now… but you can stay… if you’d like)). I’d rather not go into detail here… maybe some other time… I fear that by talking too much about it I may have another episode. What I will say though is if you’ve ever seen the movie Pi (Darren Aronofsky’s directorial debut), the main character suffers from cluster headaches. They are a slightly different disorder, but this is the closest to reality I’ve ever seen a migraine portrayed in film. In fact, it’s so close, I really can’t watch the film… there are things in the film that I’ve experienced, and things the character does that anyone with severe migraines have thought of doing. I won’t say more… mostly because I don’t want to ruin that wonderful film for anyone who hasn’t seen it… trust me, if it didn’t hit too close to home it would be a film I would revisit often.

To get back into the swing of things I decided to play a round of Netflix Roulette. The wheel landed on a 2013 haunted-house film (seriously is that the only kind of horror movie being produced right now) called Haunt. It started with an interesting cold open, though nothing really originally. A man is using a device (an EVP box… apparently) to try to communicate with his dead children. A force overtakes him and causes him to throw himself down the stairs to his death. We then cut to a dictionary definition of the word haunt (“a feeding place for animals”). It is a captivating play on words… that, unfortunately, doesn’t pay off. Not to skip ahead to the end of my thoughts on the film, but that really summarizes the major issue with this film: there are a ton of threads, most of which never pay off… or really seem connected with the plot. The central horror story is nothing original. The protagonist moves in with his family and a series of paranormal events and visions leads him to realize something is haunting his house. The twist on the film is that there is also a teen coming-of-age subplot to the film. The main character meets a neighbor and they fall in love throughout the film… while, simultaneously investigating the paranormal activities in the film. This is the other major problem of the film… it feels like two films, that never really connects. First there is a romance scene, then there is a horror scene, back to the romance, cut to the horror, so on and so on, and the two plots never really intersect.

Add to this that the filmmaker (Mac Carter’s directorial debut) is extremely heavy-handed…in both plot and dialogue. For example, after the opening credits the movie starts with three minutes of exposition. It would have been much better to let the characters discover the history of the house themselves. To make things worse Carter decided to show us quick flashbacks to the scenes of the death as the kids are exploring their new house… the problem with this is that we were just shown these scenes (and the locations) two minutes ago. The other weird thing is that the filmmaker chooses to show us the big-bad specter at the very beginning of the film (hence, why I didn’t feel guilty putting it in the headline image above)… granted it’s only a quick flash, but still it’s pretty prominent. At that point there is no waiting for the big reveal (which, to be honest, is normally a letdown… but it’s a horror movie tradition for a reason). When it comes to dialogue, I don’t think I’ve seen any clunkier (apart from dialogue, I’ve written that is). The parents are horribly cut-out clichés… saying silly thing after silly thing. That’s actually true of all of the characters (apart from the two main characters… don’t get me wrong, they still say horribly cliché things (and somewhere along the line the protagonist suddenly becomes an expert about ghosts) but at least they have some depth). To make things worse, the filmmaker tries to get clever at the end, but it’s just too late.

The only thing this movie had going for it is that it the filmmaker decided to use Night of the Living Dead for the obligatory kid-sits-on-the-couch-watching-public-domain-black-and-white-horror-movie-so-the-studio-doesn’t-have-to-pay-for-right scene. Wait, you know what, I take it back… you have sullied the name of George Romero good sir… now apologize! Okay, okay… I know too harsh (and to by fair George Romero sullied the name of George Romero with Survival of the Dead… yikes). Yeah… I guess that means I should probably just stop here.

Oh yeah, please remind me next time I move into a house and there’s a creepy, old dental chair in the basement, to immediately drag it out to the curb instead of just leaving it there for some inexplicable reason.

Maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow… see you then…

me

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