As we approach mid-September, we also approach the most wonderful time of the year: Haunt season. There’s something about running around in the dark, looking around every corner to try and spot the monsters lurking before they spot you, and finding your way through labyrinthine corridors that makes you feel alive. With all the excitement surrounding haunted mazes, have you ever stopped to actually wonder, “What if this was actually real? What’s to stop some maniac from putting on an elusive haunt in the middle of nowhere only to end up terrorizing me and my friends for real? Why am I even signing this waiver?” I know I have. With haunt season fast approaching and immersive and extreme haunts becoming ever so popular, it’s the perfect time for the release of HAUNT.
Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods of A Quiet Place fame, and produced by Eli Roth, HAUNT takes us on a spooky night out while serving up some pretty creative scares. Throughout the film we follow Harper (Katie Stevens) who seems to have a sketchy past and an even sketchier boyfriend. Harper’s friends convince her to go out for Halloween and towards the end of the night, they set out in search of a local haunt they discover on the back of a flyer.
When all hope of finding the haunt seems to be lost, a sign on the side of the road illuminates indicating that the haunt is just down the road. From the moment they arrive, things seem to be a little weirder than usual. They are greeted by a silent ominous clown, instructed to sign a release of liability waiver and made to put their phones in a lockbox that is to be unlocked once the haunt has been completed.
Once inside, everything seems to be business as usual. The group splits up with half walking through the “Safe” path and the other half heading through the “not safe” path. Skeletons pop out of walls, scary fake spiders dangle from the ceiling and everyone seems to be having a good time until something horrifying happens and they have to decide whether what they witnessed was real or just another parlor trick. Once they figure out that a lot of the horrors going on around them are indeed very real, Harper and her friends have to fight to stay alive and make it out of the haunt in one piece.
Normally I would advise against going to a haunt that’s listed on the back of a flyer that leads you down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere but this is haunt season. In recent years, haunts have had to re-imagine ways to be scary and elusive and in doing so, they’ve come up with some pretty cool immersive elements to freak you out and throw you off of your game. Scavenger hunts, secret passwords, and release of liability waivers have become the norm for a lot of the popular haunt attractions we visit year after year, so its not really that far-fetched to imagine you and your friends falling prey to a similar scenario like the one HAUNT presents.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily throw HAUNT into my bag of staple “Haunted maze turns out be actual house of horrors” movies, the production design throughout the movie is pretty accurate to what we would see in actual haunt mazes and escape rooms today. Its not as fun as I was hoping, but they do get pretty creative with what this group of friends has to endure. There is a particularly good scene where the group takes turns sticking their hands into holes in the wall and they have to “guess the body part”. As you can guess, it doesn’t go well. Once motives are (sort of) revealed and characters are struggling to survive, the build up kind of flounders and falls flat. Even so, I’d still recommend giving HAUNT a watch. If anything, it’ll serve to get you excited about the upcoming haunt season and will give you pointers on things to watch out for if you want to make it out alive.