Not to be confused with the 2014 film of the same name, which I already reviewed here. It’s Halloween, and our six main characters are looking for a haunted house. We have final girl Harper (Katie Stevens), her love interest Nathan (Will Brittain), her roommate Bailey (Lauren Alisa McClain), and her friends, token woman of color Angela (these days we get one fewer whitie in addition to the Black best friend if the main cast numbers at least six) (Shazi Raja), obnoxious but useful Evan (Andrew Caldwell), and the other one, Mallory (Schuyler Helford). The place they end up in is a labyrinthine hellhole full of murderers. Naturally, not all of them will see November 1st.
I’d heard good things about the movie, both from Facebook and a treasured professor from my college days who helped me realize how much I love writing about horror movies. It’s produced by Eli Roth and directed/written by the fellas who penned A Quiet Place, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. I wasn’t disappointed, but I did feel a bit confused as I was watching. The synopsis on Shudder makes it sound like it’s about characters facing specific phobias, describing the setting as a “haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears.” This seems to happen at first. We learn early on that Mallory is afraid of spiders, and once she’s in the haunt a shit ton of them are dumped on her head. But they disappear suddenly without harming her, and that tack is abandoned for the rest of the movie. The characters instead face their fears of getting straight-up murdered by lunatics.
It’s not scary, but it’s pretty unpredictable, which is something to treasure in a movie these days, particularly a slasher. The killers don’t have a definitively established motive, and are creepier for being unexplained. As you can expect from Eli Roth, it’s gory, sometimes shockingly so. The jump scares, refreshingly not over-relied on, are effective.
The characters are fairly likable. Once Harper settles in and realizes what’s at stake, she becomes a pretty badass final girl, smart and tough. One does have to wonder, though, at people who’d willingly go into a decrepit shithole in the middle of nowhere. They see nothing wrong with signing liability forms that we later find out ask for their addresses and their parents’ names.
My biggest gripe is that I’m puzzled about the inclusion of domestic abuse in the movie. Harper has flashbacks of her father battering her mother, and Harper’s current boyfriend Sam (Samuel Hunt) is similarly violent to her. It doesn’t have any real bearing on the plot or her transformation into a fighter. As I said, the characters aren’t conquering personal fears; she’s not drawing on her traumatic childhood to deal with anything currently happening to her. This is the sum total of information about the other characters: Nathan used to play baseball but got injured, Angela has 46 cousins, and Evan can pick locks. Why is Harper the only one who gets a backstory, and why such a pointlessly grotesque one?
But overall, I liked it. It’s not as good as A Quiet Place, but what is, really? Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something gruesome and startling.