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John’s Horror Corner: Haunter (2013), a “reverse haunting” mingling teen angst, family-friendly horror and surreal storytelling

February 21, 2014

MY CALL:  To an adult horrorhound this may be more interesting than satisfying; teen angst meets PG-13 family-friendly horror and cleverly surreal storytelling in this highly original film.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Haunter:  With such “gentle” scares, I’d call this a horror movie for beginners or family nights.  As such, being a bit more hardcore with my horror, I don’t have anything to suggest.

This film approaches an all too familiar idea (i.e., a haunted house story) from a new perspective.  On an inordinately foggy day we meet Lisa (Abigail Breslin; Zombieland, Signs, The Call).  In many ways Lisa is the prototypical American teen–moody, attitudinal, and her parents just don’t get her.  But in one way she’s not like the typical teen: she and her family are reliving the same day of their life over and over again and Lisa is the only one who sees what’s happening or has any idea why.

Creative shots illustrate the seclusion of their house in the fog and their boringly repetitive life/day.  The same mac and cheese for lunch–every day, the same conversation with her mother–every day, the same episode of Murder She Wrote every night–every day… this Groundhog Day  scenario has been wearing on Lisa’s patience and sanity alike.  But one day strange things start happening around the house and Lisa’s angsty teen life becomes a little more interesting.

Slamming doors, strange sounds, voices, shadows and secret keys to secret doors; it seems that Lisa’s house is haunted and only Lisa knows it.  But there’s something very different about this haunting…

To say much more would ruin this movie and, honestly, most reviews and trailers risk giving away the well-crafted surprises that makes this story so original.

The scares are hardly as “scary” as your typical jump scares–hardly startling to the seasoned horrorhound making it feel very much the humble PG-13 that it is.  I’d go so far as to call this movie family-friendly.  There is also no gore, nudity or profanity.  This film relies entirely on Lisa’s perception and the surreal storytelling that ebbs and flows around her.

Director Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) does a fine job here making a more “wholesome” horror film, but I feel that this entry to the genre will be lost on most mature horror-goers unless they’re looking for something non-Disney to watch with their kids.  Natali has had a lot of experience as a storyboard artist (Ginger Snaps, Johnny Mnemonic, Eek the Cat and the Beetlejuice cartoon, to name the freaky and oddball work) and his mind is designed to form twisted, weird, slapstick, moral-testing, brutal scenarios.  I applaud this work and respect it.  However, I look forward to his future endeavors aimed more for lovers of gore, tension and, well, “horror.”

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