“So you want to hear a ghost story?
Well, every ghost story begins with a house… and a tragedy.
And so we begin with mine.”
The beginning really feels creepy. The rest of the film looks typical. Just another haunted-house topic with a whole range of already used elements from similar films. For the real horror fanatics it’s nothing new or surprising. Expect creaking doors, manifesting entities , scary sounds behind every door and in every corner, looming shadows and sudden scares. This film contains them all and therefore looks like a hodgepodge of already used ideas. Except for that impression-making start wherein an original device is proposed : an old-fashioned looking device composed of transistors and radio lamps that can be used to communicate with the deceased. The tormented and desperate person who wants to use it to get in touch with his children, soon will experience the consequences. They are less pleasant than he had expected.
The Asher family moves into an old house of which there are rumors that it’s haunted. The Morello family who lived there previously, was decimated cruelly. The only survivor was the matriarch Janet Morello (Jacki Weaver) who shows up while the Ashers are moving in, saying that she forgot to take something with her. During her brief visit she talks to Evan (Harrison Gilbertson), the son of the family Asher, telling him that her son died when he was Evan’s age and that the attic was his bedroom. The moment Evan meets the rebellious teenage girl Sam (Liana Liberato) during a nighttime walk, a close friendship grows in between them. Before he realizes it, Sam snuggles into his bed at night. After a while they start to experiment with the strange device that they found (the one you saw in the opening scene) in a side room in the attic (actually Sam knew it was there anyway). A dangerous game that opens the door for not so friendly ghosts.
Ghost stories with an old, possessed house as a central subject, is an eagerly used topic in the horror genre. Think of “The Conjuring“, “The Woman in Black“, “The Amityville Horror” or “Poltergeist” and you know what to expect. The old clichés aren’t shunned. Everytime there’s an appearance, lights start to flicker again (in the same way as you saw in “Deliver us from Evil“) There’s even an entity that looks as if it came straight out of the movie “The Ring“. And events from the past are shown in a creepy way in black and white. Unfortunately there are also the ridiculous-looking clichés. Like the fact that the new family happens to have the same composition of family members as the previous unfortunate family. Despite terrifying apparitions and confrontations, everyone just continues as if this is the most normal thing in the world. Even worrying gibberish of the youngest daughter (“If there’s really a ghost in Evan’s room, l think he should make friends with it.“) doesn’t bother anyone. And of course at that time the parents leave the entire household behind, so they can visit a few colleagues.
Despite the obvious events, apparitions and paranormal states, I was still a bit surprised by the final denouement. Visually and in terms of atmosphere they could have created a really eerie and creepy film. The ghost part isn’t so bad because they are surely scary at times. But the storyline is certainly not that exciting. And the performances are pretty one-dimensional. Parents are more absent than present, the older daughter was totally unnecessary and the younger sister lived in her own world. Gilbertson and Liberato formed a sympathetic couple but Gilbertson’s naivety is hugely irritating. I enjoy an old-fashioned ghost story once and a while. Such a film that gives you the chills at times. The only chills I got while watching “Haunt“, were those of the cold because of an open window in the middle of the night.