Review: ‘Haunter’

Haunter-Vincenzo-Natali

Haunter is a Canadian Supernatural Horror film written by Brian King and directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice).  This is a rare movie in that it’s genuinely scary yet somehow family-friendly.

Read my review after the jump.

 Official Synopsis:  Lisa Johnson is one day shy of her sixteenth birthday. And she will be forever. She and her family are dead and doomed to repeat that fateful last day before they were all killed in 1985. Only Lisa has “woken up” and realizes what is going on. She starts to feel as if she is being haunted, but the “ghost” turns out to be Olivia, a very much alive girl who lives in the house in the present day with her own family. With her help, Lisa discovers that the house once belonged to a serial killer who kidnapped teenage girls and burned their remains in a hidden furnace room. When he died, he became a Haunter – a powerful, evil spirit able to possess the living.

Haunter is a modern-day Turn of the Screw.  Like the family in The Others, Lisa and her clan are trapped in the location of their death.  Outside their home: Nothing but an impenetrable fog.  All attempts to escape lead right back into perpetual captivity.  It’s a world not unlike The Further in Insidious: A timeless realm where sleepwalking spirits seek some sort of nebulous resolution.  Haunter plays out like a warped version of Groundhog Day where endlessly repeating time-loops squash any hope of a bright future.  I also detected echoes of Lovely Bones and I Know Who Killed Me.

Haunter-2013-Movie-Image

Abigail Breslin (Signs, Zombieland, Ender’s Game) plays Lisa Johnson, the perpetually 16-year-old ghost with excellent taste in 80’s music (The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, The Smiths).  I’m wondering if her affinity for Goth music and its gloomy themes of death and suffering is what allowed her to grasp the situation she and her family are trapped in.  She’s a brave protagonist who, while angsty to the extreme, never falls into the role of helpless victim.

Stephen McHattie (Pontypool, Exit Humanity, The Tall Man) is awesome as the Edgar (also referred to as “The Pale Man”).  He’s like a supernatural dungeon master, keeping the spirits of his victims in hapless states of confusion.  His calm demeanor and easy smile barely contain his demonic motivations.

Haunted Photo

I liked Haunter, but I feel like I would have liked it even more if I was a 14-year-old Twilight fan—because that’s probably the target audience.  Still, I’m always impressed when I find a film with legitimate shivers that can be enjoyed by Horror aficionados and mainstream movie-lovers alike.  No blood, no sex, no onscreen violence, just a great story with great actors delivering a spooky-good time.  The ending is super cheesy and quasi-religious, but forgivable.

There was only one thing that kind of bugged me: Why would Lisa be afraid of Edgar if they are both ghosts?  We know that evil spirits can torment the living through telekinetic activities and bodily possession, but how can one ghost hurt another ghost?  This even dawns on Lisa near the film’s conclusion when she asks: “What are you gunna do?  Kill me?”  Legitimate question.

In addition to great writing and acting, Haunter is a good-looking movie, employing awesome sets, nice effects, and skillful cinematography.  It’s a good time for just about everyone.

3.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.

Trailer: HERE

Release Date (Limited/VOD) October 18 2013
Studio IFC Midnight
Director Vincenzo Natali
Writer Brian King
Starring Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Nolden, David Hewlett
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About Saucy Josh

I write a blog for intelligent Horror movie aficionados called Blood and Guts for Grown Ups: https://bloodandgutsforgrownups.wordpress.com/ View all posts by Saucy Josh

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