Movie Review: Haunt

If you haven’t watched the original Night of the Living Dead lately, you should.

Rated R. Opens Friday at the Presidio Theater.

We’re fully into the single-word, post-meaning era of movie titles, so it figures that Scott Beck and Bryan Woods’ horror movie Haunt does not involve any supernatural elements typically associated with haunting. On Halloween, a group of unlikable college students led by the red-hooded Harper (Katie Stevens) visit one of those Blackout-style “extreme” haunted houses in which all manner of allegedly consensual abuse, degradation, and jiggery-pokery is committed upon the patron. They’re soon picked off by the deranged humans behind the scenes — and unsurprisingly for a film produced by Hostel’s Eli Roth, Haunt often veers into torture porn, almost as though that was the point. Haunt strives for some emotional resonance by establishing that Harper’s father was abusive, hence she grew up in a “real” haunted house, geddit? But it comes across as tasteless-in-a-bad-way in a picture in which characters say things like “I’m an equipment manager, not Robert De Niro from Heat!” in the manner only too-clever screenwriters think humans speak. If nothing else, Haunt is statistically notable as the third film in the past two months after The Fanatic and the far superior Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to feature a character watching the 1968 Night of the Living Dead. It’s also the first to make you wish you were watching it, too.

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