The last time I went through a haunted house (fine–more accurately, it was a cave), it proved to be a terrible mistake. As it turned out, the area was muddy AF and involved a steep decline, which was a challenge for my friend who was wearing an orthopedic boot at the time. I’ve been told this story lacks the kind of terror people are looking for in a horror film. Let’s test that theory and determine for ourselves whether this week’s film is truly as harrowing as my own experiences with haunted Halloween attractions.
A group of friends out for a fun night of Halloween chills get more than they bargained for in a haunted house that’s significantly more murdery than anticipated.
It’s Halloween, meaning one thing for roomies Harper and Bailey and their group of friends: it’s time to do shots of spider-infused vodka in a dimly lit club. Honestly, the thought of an evening in a trendy club surrounded by youths is my personal nightmare, but the evening promises to become much more sinister.
Though Harper spends most of the evening sulking that her toxic boyfriend hasn’t texted her back, she gets into the spirit of things after meeting perhaps the embodiment of a fuckboy, backwards baseball cap included. Said fuckboy, Nathan, is actually a fairly nice dude, but comes along with his own bestie, who is a bit of a tool.
After a sufficient number of shots, the group decides to continue the evening with Halloween-themed festivities. When Harper fears a car has followed the group from the club, a series of twists and turns takes them to an all too conveniently located haunted house. Like any horror movie friends worth their salt, they ignore the possibility that it may be a horrendously bad idea to visit the creepy haunted attraction whose sudden appearance may not be entirely coincidental.
To make matters worse, many of the employees at the haunted house are eerily silent clowns who primarily just stand around wearing empty eyed masks. Even when the group has to sign a liability waiver and give up their cell phones to enter the haunted house, they remain undeterred.
Upon entering the house, there are some disturbing and oddly specific scares for the group, including a young woman apparently being tortured by a witch, a coffin that rains down spiders on the arachnophobic member of the group, and a guessing game involving body parts. However, things are dialed up to 10 when Bailey is seriously wounded with deep gashes on her arm, and a member of the group is murdered in front of them.
Adding another layer to Harper’s experience, she confesses that she grew up in a haunted house. Living with a physically abusive father terrorized her and made even relatively safe hiding places dangerous.
Splitting from the group, Nathan apparently recruits an employee of the haunted house to help, but how trustworthy is this masked figure? When he gives the group a set of keys that will allow them to escape, it comes with a catch: the only way out is through a tunnel where they came in, and the group can only get through the tunnel one at a time.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, escaping the house isn’t as easy as planned. Members of the group are picked off one by one by the masked figures that supposedly work for the haunted house. Could those masks be hiding something more sinister than initially expected? Spoiler alert: YES. And what does that mean for the group’s chances of survival?
2/5 Pink Panther Heads
Out of curiosity, I looked this up on Rotten Tomatoes, and it currently has a 71%??? Did we watch the same movie? The comparison of growing up in an abusive household to the terror of a haunted house is interesting (if underdeveloped), but this is honestly the only thing even remotely clever in the film. Most of the scares of this film depend on gore, so it’s frequently more disgusting than frightening. To make matters worse, there were some truly bizarre choices that gave me a chuckle rather than a chill.
The big twist of this film comes from seeing what’s under all of those creepy masks, but we take a really long time to get there. And the twist seems to exist for the sake of saying there was a twist rather than going anywhere particularly thrilling with the concept. I have so many more questions than answers, and almost exclusively because there was a frustrating lack of details surrounding the twist itself.
Perhaps the real issue at fault, though, is the party at the beginning of the film. For me, this is the actual nightmare here, and everything else that happens pales in comparison with a room full of 20-somethings in costumes getting shit-faced, and no corner is dark enough–nor liquor high enough proof–to truly escape from the surrounding terror.