“I think it’s important to look around and appreciate how lucky we are,” a mother states in Haunt, a horror debut from Mac Carter.
Emblematic of much of the film’s problems, this “lucky” family is never shown behaving harmoniously — a rote line of dialogue will have to suffice.
Action is replaced with exposition even in the film’s press notes, which indicate teenage son Evan (Harrison Gilbertson) is moody; other than the occasional mopey facial expression, there’s little to suggest he’s a volatile teen, or any other kind of teen at all, as he’s given little to do except thrust the narrative forward.
After moving, Evan befriends local girl Sam (Liana Liberato), who explains that his new house is haunted — of the previous family that inhabited it, only the mother, Janet (Jacki Weaver, effectively creepy), still lives.
After discovering a radio transmission device in the attic that communicates with the dead, Sam and Evan end up stirring the house’s ghosts.
The frustration here comes from the filmmakers’ inability to present characters with dimension, so that we might come to identify with them and their fears.
Also frustrating is the lack of a concrete villain: While Weaver’s character is presented with eerie relish, she never enters into direct conflict with Sam and Evan, who find themselves terrorized by ghostly apparitions that fail to take on any compelling characteristics.
Fear derives from recognition, but little in Haunt is redolent of the familiarly human.