“Tremors: Shrieker Island” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.
I appreciate “Haunt,” a movie about an extreme haunted house, for being scary in the same way that haunted houses themselves are scary. There is a wide variety of settings, and each of those settings has a unique surprise in store for anyone passing through.
“Haunt” kickstarts by getting that pesky character introduction out of the way in about ten minutes. This is the kind of movie that knows that these aren’t characters so much as they are fodder for the various sadistic traps that lay ahead by the psychopaths running the haunted house. The main character is Illinois college student Harper (Katie Stevens), who we know will be the Final Girl because she is the only one with even a semblance of a back story. She’s also having boyfriend trouble, so she goes with her friends Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain), Angela (Shazi Raja), and Mallory (Schuyler Helford) to a night club. Here they meet Nathan (Will Brittain), whom Harper awkwardly meet-cutes, and his fat, loud, party animal friend Evan (Andrew Lewis Caldwell).
It’s standard practice in movies like this to make the main characters likeable and the side characters somewhat annoying, so that the audience doesn’t mind—or even enjoys—seeing them get maimed, mutilated, and murdered. Mission accomplished with Harper, who is likeable, as is her love interest Nathan. As for the other four side characters, the only truly obnoxious one is Evan. While we don’t learn much about the other three ladies, none are particularly bothersome. I actually did give a darn about them somewhat, and the movie is better off for making me care. This is especially true for Bailey, who suffers the most throughout the movie.
The cause of said suffering is a group of ghoulish perpetrators who should all be locked away in an asylum getting intense psychiatric care, but are running an extreme haunted house instead. This is the type of haunted house in which you have to sign a waiver before entering. What makes the villains interesting is that underneath their costumes and masks, they—at least some of them—are characters with names and voices. Especially interesting is Ghost (Chaney Morrow), whose actual look is even more terrifying than his costume. He presents himself as a potential ally and is soft-spoken, but can he be trusted? The injection of this character as part of the group trying to survive is a stroke of chaotic genius on the part of writer-directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods that adds to the mystery surrounding what’s happening.
The concept of a haunted house where things turn lethally real is nothing new. I’ve seen so many of them that I can’t remember all of the titles to every one. What sets a movie with this premise apart are the characters and the scares. “Haunt” delivers well enough on both of those factors, making it one title with this scenario that I will be sure to remember. Rent it.
“Tremors: Shrieker Island,” starring Michael Gross as Burt Gummer, who thirty years after the first “Tremors” is still going strong, this time saving trophy hunters on an island resort from the burrowing Graboids.