Haunt (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Haunt (2019)

Film: In 2018 I was pleasantly surprised by a film which I thought would be a little more than a one trick pony called A Quiet Place. I think it’s a film that could have easily been fairly terrible in the hands of someone who couldn’t direct either people or tension properly. In a fantastic move, we discovered that Jim from the TV show, The Office, John Krasinski is it only an amazing actor, he’s bloody good at directing both people and tension!

Who would have thought? (That’s unfair: I honestly have no idea what his educational or professional pedigree is)

Another part of that film’s appeal was the script, written by Krasinski along with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who along developed the original story, who here act not only as the writers, but also co-direct. Was it a fluke? Well I watched Haunt to find out!

It’s Halloween, but Harper (Katie Stevens) has no intention of going out with her sorority sisters. See, Harper is having boyfriend troubles… that is, Harper’s boyfriend is an alcoholic who has been abusing her.

Eventually, after much coercion from Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain) she agrees to go out to a club even though she has no costume, with two other girls, Mallory (Shuyler Helford) and Angela (Shazi Raja), where they meet up with a couple of young men, Evan (Andrew Lewis Caldwell) and Nathan (Will Brittain). After they get bored of the club they decide to go to one of those ‘haunted house’ attractions.

Unfortunately for them, this is a special haunted house attraction… even though the actors running the house are wearing cheap, vacu-formed plastic Ben Cooper-styled Halloween masks, they aren’t kidding when it comes to the scares… or the killing… can out heroes make it out of the attraction alive?

Well I have to say that this film was a damned surprise and paid off at every corner. This film has a thrill a minute, surprising violence for a modern horror film (which usually shy away from letting you actually SEE the violence) with some solid acting, awesome make-up effects and some surprises that you probably won’t see coming… I know I didn’t!

It reminded me very much of the film The Strangers, not just because of the masks, but if that film was a home delivery meal, this is the dine-in.

As a side note, I’m note usually a fan of acoustic covers of songs by breathy voiced ladies, but the cover of Rob Zombie’s Dragula over the end credits was surprisingly good.

This was a gripping film that had me captivated from the start and just kept delivering. Very happy.

Score: ****1/2

Format: Haunt was reviewed with the Australian release DVD which is presented in a 2.39:1 image with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, both of which are perfect.

Score: *****

Extras: Only two extras on this disc:

The Sound of Haunt is a fascinating, albeit brief, look at sound design with Mac Smith from Skywalker Sound. I’d love to see a massive feature about horror movie sound design but, no: 4 minutes is all you get.

Behind the Haunt is another far-too-short looking at the genesis and making of the film. Oddly, after a mini-doco about sound design, the audio in this one is hollow and awful.

Score: **

WISIA: Oh yeah, Ill be watching this again, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind a sequel, which is a sentence I’m not used to saying.

The House of Clocks (1989)

One from the re watch pile…
The House of Clocks aka La Casa Nel Tempo(1989)

The House of Clocks DVD cover

Film: When talking about my favourite films, one director’s name pops up with three example: Lucio Fulci. The films of his that always get a mention are The Beyond (a favourite), The City of the Living Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters. I grew up hiring these films from my local video shop, and pouring over any information I could glean from the pages of Fangoria, though those pages regularly show gore not necessarily present in the copies that I was hiring!

The House of Clocks: home invasion!

I have always dug Fulci’s explicit gore, even though for me it’s not a necessity, and cool set pieces, though sometimes… ok, a lot of the time, the message of the story, or in fact, the story of the story, doesnt feel like a completed entity. 

The House of Clocks is one of those films. This film is a part of the ‘doomed houses’ series of TV films made by Fulci and Umberto Lenzi (the others being The Sweet House of Horror, The House of Witchcraft and The House of Lost Souls), though Fulci’s entry was deemed to gory for TV and instead received a cinema and VHS release.

The House of Clocks: right in the fanny!

Three thieves decide to rob and old clock-collecting couple who go to drastic measures to keep a secret they have hidden from the outside world. Unfortunately, the robbery goes horribly wrong, and the old couple and their groundskeeper are killed during the course of the botched home invasion… but then, all the accumulated clocks starts running backwards, and the dead, live again!

For me, Fulci took his surrealism too far in this flick and it becomes a series of nonsensical set pieces that whilst you understand what is going on, it’s just not conveyed very well. I am sure this could be remade and could tell the story with far more cohesively than what Fulci has done here.

Score: **

The House of Clocks menu screen

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the 2002 Shriek Show release, region 1 DVD which runs for approximately 83 minutes. It’s is presented in an extraordinarily foggy, washed out and dull 1.85:1 image with an English dubbed Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track which is far better than what the image would suggest.

Score: **

Extras: There is a couple of extras on this disc.

First we have trailers for The House of Clocks, Eaten Alive, Zombi 3, House on the Edge of the Park and Sweet House of Horrors. 

Next are two interviews, one with Paolo Paoloni and another with Carla Cassola. Unfortunately the sound with Paoloni is a bit dodgy, but they both seem to have nice recollections of the making of the film .

Score: **

WISIA: It’s not Fulci’s best film by a long shot, and I watched it once several years ago but not since. The only reason I rewatched it at all was for this review. I probably won’t watch it again unless I decide to do some kind of Fulci retrospective.

The House of Clocks: the cat’s revenge.

Haunt (2014) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Haunt (2014)

Film: On occasion, I’ll pick up a scary movie based on just name in the credits. Honestly, it rarely is a good choice, and I have been burnt by several latter-day Argento flicks, for example. I’ll pretty much well grab anything with any of the 80s Scream Queens in it and, well, rarely are they anything but a little titilation.

This movie was picked up due to the presence of a single Australian actress amongst a bunch of American ones who I either had never heard of, or I had only seen in bit parts of other films.

In this case the actress is Jackie Weaver.

Haunt: Jacki Weaver as Doctor Morello

Haunt is written by Andrew Barrer, who is current working on Ant-man and the Wasp for Marvel (though I imagine more will eventually be credited) and directed by Mac Carter, who wrote and directed one of my favourite documentaries about comics, Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics.

Haunt tells of a reserved young man, Evan Asher (Harrison Gilbertson) who has moved into a strange old house with his family. Whilst on a walk in the woods, Evan meets a neighbour, a girl of about his own age Samantha (Liana Liberato) who appears to be somewhat of a loner herself, and the two of them start exploring the house.

Now this strange old house has a secret: the family that lived there, the Morellos, are all deceased except for the mother, Janet Morello (Jacki Weaver) and it looks like our two potential new young lovers have accidentally opened a door to the spirit world by activating a ‘spirit radio’ they found in a hidden room, which can be tuned into the dead.

Haunt: Harrison Gilbertson as Evan

Will they survive though, when the dead start transmitting back?

I think I can see what they were hoping to do with this film. They were hoping to take the post millennial ghost story and put a twist on it, and at the same time, push Jacki Weaver’s character into a point where she is the linchpin for a series of tales, maybe a future franchise but there are a few problems.

The first is the two leads are boring and generic. It’s not they act badly, they just don’t seem to be given too much to do and when the ghostly happening do start to occur, the story doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with them.

The next problem is the ghost radio thing doesn’t really seem to be given much of a story. It’s there and then it’s not, and then it’s back, and it seems it supposed to be this epic device to get to speak to the afterlife, and it has a cool design, but it doesn’t feel like it gets the reverence it’s probably should.

The last issue is Jacki Weaver. She takes command of every scene she is in, but doesn’t really have any one to act with. She is given a couple of really great scenes but it’s just not enough.

I’m not saying it doesn’t lend itself to a sequel, it really does as there is a skeleton of an interesting story starring Weaver and the ghost radio, but it just needs to be a little more horrific, and maybe a ghost redesign as The Conjuring styled ghosts, with their j-horror influences are old hat now… surely there is still an art designer out there with a fresh idea!

Score: **

Format: The film was reviewed on the Australian region B Bluray, which runs for approximately 85 minutes. Both the 2.40:1 image and DTS Master Audio 5.1 track are excellent.

Score: *****

Extras: This disc entertains a complete lack of extras except for three trailers that show before the movie starts, which are for Two Men in Town, Poker Night and The Devil’s Hand.

Score: 1/2

WISIA: A well acted and finely directed but at the end wholly unsatisfying movie. I doubt if I’ll ever watch it again. I would suggest though that it’s one of those films where a lot of dialogue may hint at the ‘secret’ ending, so a second watch may be full of ‘ooooooooooh’ moments.

Haunt: ghostly manifestations!