Canada | 2013 | Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Logline: A teenage girl finds herself – and her family – trapped in a supernatural time-loop within the home, reliving each day over and over, until she makes an even more frightening discovery.
Like a less-than-stellar episode of The Twilight Zone, Haunter meanders into frame and quickly wanders into the foggy wilderness of mediocrity. It’s a cliché-ridden ghost story that relies on its twist to keep the bar raised, but the bar was never high enough in the first place. This is strictly haunting-by-the-numbers, with a saccharine feel-good ending.
Lisa (Abigail Breslin) is the moody teenager who becomes aware of a supernatural glitch in the time-space continuum of her home. She is forever washing the same clotches, being accused of losing clothes by her mother, who’s baking the same cake over and over and over; her birthday cake. It seems Lisa’s birthday will never, ever arrive.
After a few wash, rinse and repeats Lisa makes contact with another girl, Olivia (Eleanor Zichy), from the future. Olivia and her family are to be the next set of victims of a sinister serial killer, Edgar Mullins (Stephen McHattie). Yup, Lisa is a ghost. But unlike the rest of her family, she’s worked out she’s one, and it’s up to her to wriggle free from the dark spectral force that has surrounded and infiltrated the house. She’ll need help from Olivia, and the spirits of other previous victims.
Haunter is about waking up to the fact that you’re dead. It’s a spiritual thriller, weaving dangerously close to Christian territory. There is sweet little nightmare edge in this safe-as-houses horror; I’ve seen episodes of Antiques Roadshow that were more disturbing. Even the presence of McHattie (a wasted opportunity, if ever there was!) fails to provide any genuine menace.
Abigail Breslin is in a similar boat to Chloë Grace Moretz. They were great as child actors, but as they enter late adolescence they are not exhibiting much acting range. Of course, it could have a lot to do with the director whose previous movies have featured some very wooden performances. Natali is a former storyboard artist, and certainly his movies have a visual narrative that is so slick as to be like a television advertisement. But they leave me cold. Haunter is no exception.
What scares me the most is Natali is directing William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
Haunter is released in Australia by Umbrella Entertainment.