Mac Carter’s Haunt (2013) offers viewers a haunted house tale, very angry ghosts, and teenage romance. But is it memorable? For me, the character’s names didn’t even sink in. Maybe I’m just bad with names, but it could also be symptomatic of a movie that didn’t keep me absolutely, 100% engaged. Don’t get me wrong here. I wouldn’t say Haunt is a bad movie (it’s not as bad as some will inevitably say). It just didn’t knock my socks off. I will say Mac Carter did a decent job directing it, especially with it being his debut, and the acting and story are okay overall. However, more could have been done with it. I’ll give you a look at its strengths and why you might find it worthwhile, but I won’t promise that you’ll love it.
The movie begins with Frank (Carl Hadra), who can communicate with the dead through a primitive electrical device. As you can imagine, ghosts hear the call and don’t like it. Shortly after Frank’s unfortunate encounter, we meet a woman named Dr. Janet Morello (Jacki Weaver), Frank’s widow, who explains that the ghosts murdered her entire family. Don’t worry about this being a spoiler; these details are given right at the very beginning.
Before long we meet the Asher family. Most of them only play minor roles throughout. In fact, most of their existence seems almost like a technicality. There’s mommy and daddy Asher (Ione Skye and Brian Wimmer), and a few Asher daughters thrown into the mix (Danielle Chuchran and Ella Harris). The main characters are a young man named Evan Asher (Harrison Gilbertson) and a young neighbor lady named Samantha (Liana Liberato), or Sam.
When the Asher family moves into the Morello haunted house, we know right away that bad things are going to happen. After all, what sort of movie would this be if earlier events were irrelevant and the Ashers just moved in and lived happily ever after? That might be a brilliant prank on the audience, and maybe someone should make that movie someday, but in Haunt, these ghosts aren’t going to let that happen. They are going to haunt the crap out of someone, and maybe kill people if they are so inclined.
This is where that weird ghost communication device comes in again. Evan and Sam end up playing with it because, quite simply, they assumed it would be fun (and, being young and tech-savvy, they easily figure out how it works). To them, it’s just like a Ouija board. Sam certainly needs some fun in her life. It turns out she has an abusive, alcoholic jerk of a dad. Being vulnerable, Samantha ends up falling for Evan, and soon they even wind up in the same bed.
Fortunately for Evan, he has very liberal parents. Surprisingly, they don’t treat her like a villain as she descends the staircase after secretly staying the night. There is no, “How dare you bring a girl in this house overnight without our permission?!” In fact, Samantha is even allowed to return to the house! At some point, the two open a gateway to a vengeful spirit realm, and wild and crazy ghost things start happening. Yeah, it’s pretty typical teenage stuff.
As you might imagine, there’s a whole bloody history involved here, because angry ghosts typically lack average backgrounds. Also, unless we’re talking the Patrick Swayze variety, we know ghosts often want to possess people and make them do strange and violent things. It’s usually nothing personal, either. It’s just business. Or maybe it’s a case of ghosts just wanting to have fun. Who knows.
Final thoughts: Haunt is not subtle at all. It’s quite stylized throughout. Fortunately, the style is competent, and the CG effects aren’t cheesy or even overly prominent. Sure, they’re not as good as practical effects would be in my opinion, but they’re far from the worst I’ve seen.This is a basic thing the movie got right, despite being imperfect in other key ways. Still, we did learn a lesson here, people – this is what happens when you have overly permissive parents. If you let a girl sleep in your son’s room, you unleash some kind of Hell. You’d better hope it’s only the birds and the bees that they’re conjuring.