Haunted has been advertised locally for a while now, except it was mostly done under another name. For the longest time, this film was being sold under its original title, Demonic. What prompted a title change after being promoted for so long is just another one of those mysteries of arcane local distribution practices. It is a pretty standard horror picture with a higher pedigree than most of what we get, the movie featuring some recognizable names and solid production values. But it still doesn’t make much sense in the end, and it isn’t very scary.
The movie begins with much of the horror already accomplished. Detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo) is at an old house known to be haunted. He’s there investigating the deaths of several young people who went into the house planning to summon ghosts. He interrogates John (Dustin Milligan), who is apparently the only survivor of whatever happened in the house. The detective reviews footage taken by the group, and asks the help of police psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello) in unlocking the secrets buried in John’s spotty recollection of events.
So there are actually two parts to this movie. There is the police investigation section that happens in the present and is shot like a normal movie. And then there is the other section, which is ostensibly the footage shot by the ghost summoning gang. This is delivered in found footage style, with little variation from every other film about a bunch of ghost hunters trying to record something supernatural. The police procedural elements don’t add much to the overall picture. It just slows things even further, as we now have to watch characters figure out the stuff that comes standard in this genre.
And there isn’t much to the actual horror of this film. There isn’t much creativity in the way this film deploys its scares. It’s just another series of jump scares, the movie not really bothering to build up much atmosphere in its scenes. Once again, the found footage aesthetic is mainly used as a means of obscuring things in frame so that things can pop out. It isn’t very interesting. The film provides a twist that shakes things up a bit, but it doesn’t stand to any sort of scrutiny.
This movie actually has a bit of a pedigree. It is produced by James Wan of Saw and The Conjuring fame. It is not a big budget film by any means, but it certainly had access to more resources than the average direct-to-video horror film we get. It mostly benefits from the presence of Frank Grillo and Maria Bello, both professionals that are able to sell the thinnest of roles. But the younger members of the cast don’t hold up their end. Dustin Milligan is pretty awful, which is a real problem for the movie since his role is so pivotal.
Whether you call is Haunted or Demonic, the movie just isn’t very good. Both titles are pretty generic, which is pretty appropriate for this movie. There just isn’t a whole lot to separate it from every other found footage ghost hunter film out there, in spite of its higher pedigree. That fact makes it seem lazier than every other film that we get. A lot of those films are awful, but they hardly had any chance of being good. This film, on the other hand, just had more opportunities all around. And it still ended producing the same, boring, illogical nonsense that this genre so regularly delivers.
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