Film Review: Haunt

Straightforward haunted-house yarn holds few surprises.

Jacki Weaver lends her oft-unsettling presence to a ho-hum haunted house yarn in Haunt, Mac Carter's take on an encounter between innocent living youths and the mysterious entities beyond the grave. Respectably crafted but short on invention and serious scares, the picture is unlikely to last long in theatres before drifting into the crowded limbo of on-demand fright flicks.

Weaver plays Janet Morello, a pediatrician whose husband and three kids died one-by-one—"the Morello Curse," it was called—in a home she finally gave in and sold. But she returns on the day the new Asher family moves in: "I left something behind," she says with those unnaturally wide-open eyes. But it isn't only the portrait of her teenage son that Janet left in the recesses of her old attic.

Evan (Harrison Gilbertson), who has claimed the attic as his domain, finds the Morellos' most important possession: a wind-up radio-like gizmo built to communicate with the dead. He and Sam (Liana Liberato), a neighbor who befriends him while hiding out from her abusive father, decide to see if the machine works.

It does, and its operations won't surprise any horror buffs in the audience. Figures materialize abruptly in the frame while our heroes look in the other direction; visions of past traumas materialize as faux-vintage film footage; spirits take over living beings, whose veins and eyes run black with the gunk of the undead. (Isn't there a laser surgery for that now?) However suitable the photography and production design are to this action, nothing about it feels fresh.

Gilbertson and Liberato are sympathetic as lonely teens seeking comfort in each other, but Andrew Barrer's screenplay offers little more than that as they debate whether to destroy the magic box once ghosts begin to appear or "finish what they've started." The script's framing-device narration is especially uninspired, and Weaver's stretched-out delivery of it borders on the hokey instead of giving us the creeps.

The Hollywood Reporter