Thursday, February 6, 2014

HAUNTER (IFC Midnight Blu-ray): Original Horror with a Creepy Bad Guy and a Flux Capacitor

A multi-dimensional, time traveling, Nancy Drew, murder mystery, ghost and haunted house picture. That’s Haunter for you, and perhaps a great big surprise to me. Somehow it flew in right under my radar and showed up on my doorstep. I hadn’t watched a trailer, and if I were to judge the movie solely be the performers and cover I was ready for a Gothic tale of the undead trying be at peace in a haunted house… which sounds like every other movie in a haunted house. Sure there’s some of that intermixed in with the rather bleak and ambitious vehicle that carries our protagonist from a pit of amnesia to a crevasse of awareness, but there are some suspenseful moments. Moments that surprise and yes, even moments that haunt. IFC Midnight has found a rather solid haunted house picture the pushes the boundaries of time and space.

Synopsis from IFC Midnight:

Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, August: Osage County, Zombieland) stars in director Vincenzo Natali's (Splice, Cube, ABCs of Death 2) unique take on the traditional haunted house story. In 1986, 15-year-old Lisa (Breslin) and her family died in their home under sinister circumstances. Unable to move on, their spirits have continued to roam the house. And for nearly 30 years, they have had to live the same miserable day over and over, never thinking they're anything but alive.

But now, Lisa has started noticing things that make her believe that she and her uncomprehending family are in fact ghosts. On top of that, she realizes that she must reach out from beyond the grave to help her living counterpart Olivia and her family avoid the same gruesome fate that Lisa and her loved ones suffered all those years ago.


My experience with Abigail Breslin in Zombieland was good. I enjoyed that movie tremendously though I thought it was actually for the cameo by Bill Murray and redneck zombie nut character in Woody Harrelson. As it turns out Breslin can carry a movie; even a complex and rich film like Haunter is safe in her capable hands. Her performance is emotive and dynamic though sometimes overdramatic. You want her to win “the game”; she’s got positive victim sensibilities and a hero like quality that oozes from the screen. Once you get the trick of Haunter, you’ll be ready for Breslin to untangle the fa├žade of a well crafted mindfuck. Performances all around are solid especially our big baddie who resembles Lance Henriksen more than a little. He pulls off the sick fuck role with honors giving voice and depth to a villain you’ll love to hate.

The twists and turns of Haunter scoot along like a fast paced thrill ride (let’s just called it the Gravitron). It’s a spiraling world of strange jumps and time flops. Be prepared to fuel up the flux capacitor though don’t confuse Haunter with a science fiction picture. It just knows how to tell a multi-dimensional story. It’s dark and brooding and the fight seems futile. It’s a dare to be dead and great situation.

Haunter isn’t perfect. Some of the visual cues in the film flop due to overly phony CG, and it falls into the trap of being unrealistic at times, a quality that I quite enjoy because it is a work of dark fantasy, but that I can see being a problem for the horror hardcores. The twists can feel obvious if your disbelief isn’t firmly suspended. This definitely feels like a PG-13 movie that really should have made its way to the big screen for a strong run with the tweens in search of a horror night though it avoids some of the worst big movie tropes to come out ahead of the desperately seeking boyfriend crowd.

In terms of extras you’ve got a commentary track with Director Vincenzo Natali, commentary with Writer Brian King, a look behind the scenes, the storyboards by Natali and the trailer (which I didn’t see sooner). Note: 1.85:1, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (Blu-ray).

I don’t know that Haunter will make my top ten list this year, but it’s going to be a candidate for the runner up at best (and we’re only a month in to 2014). It’s a solid movie with original ideas with lots of creepies, a good villain and an even better heroine.

Order Haunter on Blu-ray from IFC Midnight Now. The price is totally right. Available February 11th.

-Doc Terror

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