I’m really glad I went into Vincenzo Natali’s Haunter knowing basically nothing about it and I think it made for a much more enjoyable experience. All I knew was that it starred Abigail Breslin and had something to do with ghosts. Not knowing anything about the movie really allowed me to flow along with the mysterious plot without jumping to conclusions. If you search for this movie anywhere you will find plot synopsizes that will ruin things for you, so I highly recommend going into this movie totally blind if possible.
Haunter is the classic haunted house story turned on its head and then flipped around a few more times. While it has the trappings of things we’ve seen before it does a nice job of bringing about new plot points at an interesting and steady pace. We’re given just enough information about our characters and what haunts them to keep us interested, but it does not spoil any secrets until they’re good and ready to let us in on them.
Abigail Breslin plays Lisa; a girl who is about to turn 16, living with her parents, Carol and Bruce (Michelle Nolden and Peter Outerbridge) and little brother, Robbie (Peter DaCunha). There is something amiss in their happy home, but only Lisa seems to notice it. There are strange voices, missing clothing and mysterious phone calls with only static on the other end. Along with the strange happenings, there is a mystery involving a strange man (played by the always creepy, Stephen McHattie) that runs through the core of this film and while it’s not the most original or difficult to figure out, it had some nice twists and turns that did make me question my own judgement.
A minor complaint of mine is the score. There was original music by Alex Khaskin, but it also had quite a few bits lifted from other movies, not all of which are horror. I found these moments to be neat little Easter Eggs for movie buffs, because they are used quite deliberately, but it also took me out of the film for a moment which shouldn’t happen. They could have found a better balance for these bits, but it also could have been worse. I really enjoyed the quiet and stillness that’s portrayed in this movie. The lighting and cinematography are also two things that were done right here.
I have noticed that this film hasn’t gotten too many stellar reviews and that is probably due to its use of standard “boo” scares and some other creepy clichés (They got me a few times, probably because I was watching this with headphones on), but I will say that Breslin’s sincerity in the role and guessing the outcome kept me intrigued throughout. Although only playing two years younger than she actually is, it was interesting to see her look more adult in a film; especially after being used to her as a little kid in films like Signs and Little Miss Sunshine. Even with her tough attitude in Zombieland she was still clearly just a kid. This role piqued my interest in seeing her in some great intense roles in her future. I hope her acting chops hold out.
All in all this is a good horror movie. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but is well-made and worth a watch. The mood, Abigail Breslin and a different take on ghost stories make up for any lack in scare originality. Haunter had a very limited theatrical run in October 2013, is currently available to rent on multiple VOD services and will be released on bluray and dvd on February 25, 2014.