By: Heather Seebach
Haunted house movies are a dime-a-dozen these days and, frankly, 90% of them are junk. Between the generic marketing, hideous cover art, and my disappointment with Vincenzo Natali's last film (Splice), I did not have much hope for Haunter either. Well, I'm not too proud to say I was wrong. This is a unique and entertaining supernatural thriller from our neighbors to the north in Canada. It's scary, original, and visually interesting - and it's rare to find a ghost story with even two of the three attributes lately.
Abigail Breslin (Zombieland) stars as Lisa, a teenage girl living in the 1980s who discovers that she and her family are stuck on an endless time loop in a house they can never leave. Her parents do not believe her new discovery, nor do they care that someone from another realm is communicating with her. As Lisa investigates the history of the house further, she soon wishes she had not when the mysterious Pale Man (Stephen McHattie, Pontypool) comes knocking.
Now, there is a lot more to the Haunter that I am choosing not to mention here, even though every press release and plot description out there goes into much further detail. I personally approached this movie knowing nothing more than what I wrote above, and I think you should, too! The film is full of interesting little twists that kept the gears in my brain moving as I watched.
I could name a dozen movies this one reminds me of - from Insidious to Groundhog's Day - but it does not feel derivative. While there are some eyeroll-worthy haunted house cliches, most of the scares are genuine. Brian King's script is a bit too convoluted at times but the unique premise outweighs the minor plot flaws. The story plays with time in a very cool way, and Natali's fun visual choices reflect that, as well. If you need gore with your horror, look elsewhere as this film has none, but that is not to say it is without disturbing moments. In the lead role, Breslin (one of the better teenage actresses out there) holds her own against the fantastically creepy McHattie.
Haunter does not blow the lid off the genre but it succeeds at being an entertaining and unique spin on familiar horror tropes. Once again, I highly recommend going into it blind to get the full experience.
Haunter is available starting February 11th. The Blu-ray release includes audio commentary with director Vincenzo Natali; a second commentary with screenwriter Brian King; behind-the-scenes featurette; and storyboards.Pick up a copy here.