There is something chilling about the subtle creaks and moans of an old house… noises that are typically shrugged off with some vague explanation, but unnerving nonetheless. On the other hand, there’s something near terrifying about a loud, startling noise, the type of sound that invokes feelings of unease, causing momentary paralysis for fear of something unknown lurking in the shadows. David Holroyd’s (W.M.D. 2009) feature and official selection of this year’s Screamfest Film Festival, The Haunted, conveys these hair raising chills that will have you slowly looking over your shoulder.
When Emily (Sophie Stevens: The Black Prince 2017) arrives at the home of Arthur (Nick Bayly: Emmerdale Farm 2000) as the overnight caregiver, strange things begin to happen. Aside from the bedridden elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease, Emily is suppose to be the only other individual on the property. However, as the night goes on, becoming stranger with every passing hour, she realizes that the two may not be alone after all.
While exploring the premises to investigate these strange noises, Emily discovers and goes through a bag seemingly left by the previous caregiver. She is alarmed to find several forms spiritual tools for communicating with the dead along with wards against harmful spirits. As events unfold, it becomes clear that things are not quite what they appear in this haunted home.
With simplicity and a touch of realism, The Haunted encompasses the unseen mysteries that go bump in the night. The film is largely carried through lack of dialogue and minimal music, and the smallest sound and oddity is enhanced along with the senses, conveying the same feeling of sitting alone in the dark silence of a creaky old house.
The driving force behind The Haunted is the feature’s lead, Sophie Stevens. With a plot that leaves much to be desired, it is truly Stevens’ performance that keeps the film alive. Although creepy additional scenes could have added suspense that was lacking at times, Stevens’ subtle character arc is what kept my attention. Watching her transform from curious to concern to terrified is what kept me invested while forcing me to connect with her character’s fear.
While the twist ending of The Haunted added some much needed substance to the film, it was a double-edged sword causing disconnect and confusion in regards to the opening scene. Regardless, the ending was cleverly tied into the bag of spiritual instruments meant for communicating with the dead. This could have been taken further by shortening the scenes of Emily’s drawn out exploration of the house and slightly changing the beginning in any number of ways to compliment big reveal.
All in all, The Haunted has some compelling elements giving true-to-life creeps and chills where some overproduced paranormal films fall short. Stevens’ performance paired with simplicity created a sense of authenticity that isn’t often found in mainstream paranormal films of today. I have to admit that a jump scare or two actually got me. However, the plot could have been spiced up with more suspense and subtle clues to tie the introduction into the final conclusion. Downfalls aside, this is the type of feature that die-hard fans of paranormal indie films can enjoy late at night without a single light on in the house and receive some feelings of thrills and unease.