Saturday, July 19, 2014

#1,433. Haunter (2013)

Directed By: Vincenzo Natali

Starring: Abigail Breslin, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Nolden

Tag line: "Trapped by an evil from her past"

Trivia: This movie premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival

By all appearances, Lisa Johnson (Abigail Breslin) is a normal teenage girl, living an average suburban life with her parents (Peter Outerbridge and Michelle Nolden) and younger brother (Peter DaCunha). But she knows it’s all a lie. In fact, Lisa has recently become aware that she and her family are re-living the same day over and over again, eating the same food, having the same conversations, and watching he same television shows. What Lisa doesn’t know is why this is happening, or how long it’s been going on. Has she lived this day a dozen times? A thousand? A million? She’s not even sure it’s still 1985.

Then, Lisa begins hearing voices, which are calling her by name. Frightened at first, she eventually tries to contact whoever it is that’s reaching out to her. It’s at this point she receives a visit from the Pale Man (Stephen McHattie), who warns Lisa not to tamper with what she doesn’t understand, and threatens to harm her family if she keeps looking for answers. Desperate to break the cycle, Lisa ignores these warnings and continues her search, contacting a young lady named Olivia (Eleanor Zichy), who is somehow living in the same house as Lisa and her family. But who is this mysterious girl, and what does she want? More importantly, how does the Pale Man figure into all of this?

As evident from the above synopsis, director Vincenzo Natali’s Haunter is as much a mystery as it is a horror film, and while we do learn a few key facts early on (like why Lisa’s family is re-living the same day), the movie is in no hurry to piece everything together, leaving us as perplexed as its main character and wondering how its seemingly elaborate tale (which involves many different people) is going to tie together in the end. Helping to move this engaging story along is the film’s excellent cast. Abigail Breslin, who, as Lisa, has to carry much of the movie on her own, is convincing as both an angst-ridden teen trying to come to terms with her life and a scared girl facing off against an evil she can’t possibly understand. Also strong is the reliable Stephen McHattie as the Pale Man, who, with his sinister smile and cock-sure attitude, appears to be in control of Lisa and her family. As we soon discover, his power extends even further than that.

From the word “go”, Haunter wraps you up in its story and refuses to loosen its grip until all has been revealed. A smart, edgy movie with an exemplary cast, Haunter is independent horror done right.

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