Haunt and Bloodline Film Reviews
By: Joseph Perry
Halloween haunt attractions are a favorite topic annually with When It Was Cool, and as the Halloween season is just a few dried leaves away, a new horror film set in an extreme haunt is out. Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the co-screenwriters of last year’s excellent creature feature A Quiet Place with its director and star John Krasinski, both cowrite and direct Haunt, a shocker set in the modern day that hearkens back to such drive-in fear fare as Tourist Trap (1979) and Terror Train (1980).
Unfortunately, Haunt lacks the originality and touches of A Quiet Place, and characters are of the cookie-cutter variety — the troubled final girl, the cool new dude who seems to be a much better catch than her abusive boyfriend, and the obnoxious bro who spouts profanities and perturbs everyone around him, for example. Where the film succeeds most is with the set design of the claustrophobic haunted attraction where these characters and their friends find themselves trapped — without cell phones, naturally — as a group of masked psychotics torture and murder them in gruesome manners. The haunt itself has several cool-looking rooms from which the protagonists hope to escape, including a hallway lined with sheets that look like ghost costumes. The tension in the scene where one of the trapped friends first encounters this area is among Haunt’s best moments, as viewers wait to see if anyone is under the sheets, and if so, how many potential killers.
Haunt is well made and looks good, and Beck and Woods are certainly well versed in the tropes of horror movies, but with little reason to root for the protagonists, and even less backstory given to the villains, the film is just an exercise in cruelty and clichés with little originality on display. There’s enough here, however, to hope that with their next effort, the filmmakers live up to the potential they showed with their first screenplay.
Those who know Seann William Scott for his high-energy comedic roles, such as in the American Pie movies, are likely to be surprised by his dramatic turn as a straight-laced, pensive social worker, husband, and father who also happens to be a vigilante-style serial killer in director Henry Jacobson’s horror feature Bloodline. Evan (Scott) works with troubled high school students who have in common no-goodnik fathers and uncles. As he secretly goes out at night, ostensibly to take drives but in reality to deal his twisted brand of justice on those men, his wife Lauren (Mariela Garriga) naturally begins to suspect that he is up to some kind of no good. The tension between the couple is furthered by the presence of Evan’s mother Marie (Dale Dickey), who moves in temporarily to help the couple with their newborn baby.
Bloodline is a terrific film that presents a solid backstory for its main character, showing how childhood events led to him becoming the man he is now. It also explores loyalty between family members, and how far each of these three are willing to go to protect one another.
The whole cast is great, with the three leads turning in especially fine performances. Scott is outstanding as the calculating, stoic Evan, who maintains a quiet outward facade as a lifelong rage festers inside him. Dickey is wonderful, too, as a protective mother and grandmother who doesn’t always see eye to eye with her daughter-in-law, and Garriga plays the exhausted, frustrated, and suspicious wife beautifully.
The violence in Bloodline is understated compared with the average slasher movie, but it is no less effective. The emphasis in this film is not to showcase gore set pieces, but to delve into the psychology behind what drives Evan, and it how it affects his family. Full of tension and with a smart screenplay cowritten by Jacobson, Avra Fox-Lerner, and Will Honley (The Hive, 2014), Bloodline comes highly recommended from this reviewer.
Haunt is now available in theaters, and on demand and digital. Bloodline will be in theaters, and on demand and digital from September 20. Both releases are from Momentum Pictures.
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/). He also writes for the film websites Diabolique Magazine (diaboliquemagazine.com), Gruesome Magazine (gruesomemagazine.com), The Scariest Things (scariesthings.com), Ghastly Grinning (ghastlygrinning.com), and Horror Fuel (horrorfuel.com), and film magazines Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope (videoscopemag.com) and Drive-In Asylum (etsy.com/shop/GroovyDoom).
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