Nearly two years ago, I found myself in Northern Kentucky, on the set of an indie film with a group of fellow journalists. This wasn’t just any independent production, it was a flick directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (the writers of A Quiet Place) with a talented cast of up-and-coming actors, and Eli Roth serving as one of the film’s producers. Oh, and did I mention that the art director from La La Land (Austin Gorg) worked as the production designer? We all suspected that Haunt was going to be something special while on set and if the early critiques are anything to go by, we weren’t wrong. Our Joey Keogh reviewed it out of FrightFest and called it “funny, frightening, [and] endlessly entertaining.” You can check out her take right here!
It was easy to see (almost immediately) that the cast of Haunt took their characters seriously. Will Brittain (who plays Nathan) wasn’t content to simply accept what was on the page. He made sure to get into his character’s headspace and explained to us that he tried to keep Nathan from being a one note good guy. “That’s what makes Nathan interesting is that on the way to do the right thing, he does the wrong things a couple of times.”
Katie Stevens (who plays Harper) was drawn to the role–in part–because she didn’t see the film as starting out like a horror flick. She liked the fact that the group of friends were portrayed as people you could relate to before the blood starting flying. “You really start to feel for them,” Stevens said. The actress also enjoyed the freedom Beck and Woods gave her to make Harper her own. “When I read the character of Harper at first, it’s really easy to find introverted characters and kind of make them seem one-dimensional. You meet the timid characters and a lot of timid characters that I watch, they seem miserable and they seem unable to take themselves out of it. So, for me, with the directors, it was about finding that balance of, yes, Harper is an introvert. Yes, she has all this trauma that she has gone through in her life. But she’s very good at putting on this mask of ‘Everything is fine, it’s totally cool.’ I wanted people to feel for Harper and see a side of her that is that introverted timid side because of what she’s been through [with her creep boyfriend] but at the same time that she’s able to take herself out of it and have fun with her friends when she can because nobody’s going to want to champion a character that they feel they only see one side of.”
Actress Lauryn Alisa McClain is a self-proclaimed horror fan. And she reassured us that she genuinely believes Haunt will resonate with genre film enthusiasts for a number of reasons. “I read a lot of scripts. But when I read [this one], one of the things that stuck out to me the most was how real everything felt. And I don’t mean the events. Everybody’s scared of going to a haunted house and crazy stuff happening. I mean the characters…All of them are grounded in some way. There’s something about the characters that somebody can look at themselves and say, ‘Oh my God. I totally feel that way. That’s what stuck out to me.”
McClain was also pleased that the creative team opted for realistic, believable death scenes and believable relationships between the characters. “The deaths are realistic. That’s one thing that I hate about watching horror movies, sometimes. I liked that these were like, oh my God, somebody got stabbed, stuff like that…I think that the way they decided to write the script, they didn’t shy away from emotion. They didn’t shy away from anger. I think that’s what stood out to me the most.”
The characters in the film aren’t just scary on camera. Actor and stunt performer Schuyler White (who plays The Zombie) told us that when he tried to FaceTime his fiancé in full makeup, it scared her half to death. The moment she saw his face, she responded by saying “Oh my God. I can’t look at you. Turn the camera off.” White went on to say, “The whole getup–it’s very, very creepy, and it’s definitely going to give some people nightmares.”
Writer/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods were approached by the film’s producers with a very rough outline. But it was the duo themselves that actually hammered out the concept. They were particularly taken with the chance to tackle a horror film set around Halloween, something that has been attempted numerous times but has only really been done with tremendous success in a select few instances. “For us, there’s only so many great Halloween movies. And this was just an exciting chance,” explained co-director Scott Beck.
Co-director Bryan Woods told us that they set out to create an “elevated” horror picture. That they approached the concept by “putting their arthouse hats on” for a moment. And from what we observed, it’s hard to disagree. While on the set of Haunt, we saw a jarring death scene being filmed. We watched as one of the members of the cast died (on camera) over and over again–working with the directorial team to create the perfect collection of shots. We listened and watched as she recited her last words with laborious and painful breaths, blood coming out of her mouth. Even knowing that what we were watching was pure fiction, it was hard not to get swept up in what was playing out before our eyes.
Haunt will be in select theatres and on DigitalHD and VOD starting Friday, September 13th.