Haunter Movie Review
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Written by Brian King
2013, 97 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD and Blu-Ray released on 14th July 2014
Abigail Breslin as Lisa
Peter Outerbridge as Bruce
Michelle Nolden as Carole
Stephen McHattie as Pale man
Peter DaCunha as Robbie
Samantha Weinstein as Frances
Vincenzo Natali’s filmography to date is a striking one that sets him apart from the conventional storyteller. Most famous for the terrific Cube (1997) and largely disappointing yet unique Splice (2009), Natali defies the ordinary and seeks to find alternative methods to convey his subtext. His creativity can be seen in his career as a storyboard artist where he worked on the werewolf thriller Ginger Snaps (2000) and even the likes of TV series Beetlejuice and The Adventures of Tintin in the early 90s. With his most recent Canadian genre film, Haunter, playing at Film4 Frightfest in 2013 and due to be imminently released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK. There was much to look forward to.
"We’re stuck in this house and we’re never going to leave". Vincenzo Natali's ghostly chiller, Haunter, is a deliriously inventive spin on the archetypal ghost story but it lacks the atmospheric tension required to unsettle and hence evoke a feeling of dread. Shot in a meagre 25 days, this low budget independent production homes in on the life of a seemingly stereotypical American family dwelling in the leafy suburbia of a gloomy American town. There can be likenesses made with Alejandro Amenabár’s seminal classic The Others (2001) and even a mutated form of Harold Ramis’s Groundhog Day (1993). Sadly, Natali’s film doesn’t threaten to cross into such prestigious company as it becomes tangled in its own complexity. Lisa (Abigail Breslin) plays the rebellious teenage rock chick at odds with her beleaguered parents and younger brother. With the mundane and painfully dull daily routine becoming increasingly frustrating for the disillusioned teen, it becomes evidently clear that all is not quite right. Events begin repeating themselves and flashbacks of a bygone era begin interchanging with the present. Is Lisa stuck in a time loop? And just why is the outside world engulfed in a thick cloud of mist? Lisa’s daily interactions with her parents begin to evolve into far darker territory as the chill of a spiritual presence threatens to emerge.
With a bland opening, the looming presence of a pale stranger (the brilliant Stephen McHattie) jolts Haunter into life. He is a menacing unknown tainted by a quaint evil and represents an alarming threat to the bewildered Lisa. The ominous figure is attached to the house, it’s as though Lisa is prisoner in his lair forcefully trying to uncover his tranche of dark secrets. The realm which Lisa inhabits is comparable to purgatory; the idyllic home masks something deeply malevolent. When Lisa uncovers a book of missing girls, it becomes clear that her tormentor is a criminal guilty of heinous crimes. A twisted spirit caught in the vortex between life and death. As the battle to uncover the truth intensifies, a cruel twist of fate springs forth. It’s a plot deviation that is not totally unexpected but invigorating nonetheless.
Themes of possession are introduced in a supernatural and fraught finale. With Lisa on a collision course intent on rescuing a future victim from the clutches of the killer, there is an overriding feeling of what might have been. That being said, it is refreshing to witness a genre filmmaker attempting to view a traditional tale through a tinted yet ultimately imperfect lens.