watching the same episode of Murder She
Wrote over and over again. If that
isn’t Hell, it is probably close enough.
Maybe a Columbo wouldn’t be so
bad, but Lisa Johnson’s parents have pretty vanilla tastes. Do not judge them too harshly for being stuck
in the 1980’s, because they are sort of dead. Recovering awareness of their
eternally looping existence, Johnson will reach out to other girls like her in
hopes of breaking a pernicious supernatural cycle of terror in Vincenzo Natali’s
Haunter (trailer here), which opens this
Friday at the IFC Center.
Johnson family was murdered in 1986. Every
day since, they relive that fateful Sunday, unaware of their paranormal
condition. At least they still have a
cool president. Somehow, their daughter
has awakened to some extent. Cognizant
of the wicked déjà vu happening, she starts having what might be described as
ghostly experiences. Soon she suspects
other families are trapped in a similar stasis within the house, but in
different time periods. Eventually, she
will make contact with teen-aged girls in both the past and the future, but her
consciousness does not go unnoticed.
Haunter is easily one of
the best horror films of this Halloween season.
Natali maintains an overwhelming vibe of creeping dread, while Brian
King’s screenplay ranges into surreal, mind-bending territory. The closest comparison film would probably
the metaphysical horror of H.P. Mendoza’s ambitious indie I Am a Ghost, but Haunter has
a more mainstream Nightmare on Elm Street
dimension to it.
Haunter is the freshest horror outing
since probably Mendoza’s film. It
delivers about a half dozen game-changing twists and they each work
surprisingly well. There is no padding in King’s script. Everything happens for a purpose. Perhaps most importantly, it keeps viewers on
edge from start to finish.
Johnson, Abigail Breslin is on-screen front-and-center more or less the entire
time, so the film largely depends on her.
Fortunately she is convincingly smart, resilient, and increasingly
freaked out as the young protagonist.
Stephen McHattie also brings a fittingly severe presence as the
mysterious figure simply billed as the “Pale Man.” However, if there is one misstep in Haunter it comes in showing too much of
him. More mystery is always better.
Frankly, this is a perfect example of the
direction more indie genre films ought to take.
There is hardly any gore or special effects to speak of in Haunter, yet it completely gets under
your skin. Smart and tightly focused, Haunter is easily the horror movie pick
of the month. Highly recommended for
fans, it opens Friday (10/18) at New York’s IFC Center.
Labels: Abigail Breslin, Horror Movies, Stephen McHattie