Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Haunter
Haunter might have come out on the 18th of October of last year. That's what the official site says, but there's precious little else that backs that up. There are no box office numbers I can find anywhere. On the other hand, it was also a Video on Demand premiere through IFC, so it might have only gotten a token midnight release, in which case, no box office numbers were released. It's a low-budget horror film, which immediately lowers expectations, but is that fair? Just because it is low-budget doesn't mean it must be bad. Then again, most high-budget movies are pretty bad. (Sturgeon's Revelation states 90% of everything is crud. (Yes, that's Sturgeon's Revelation. Sturgeon's Law is, "Nothing is always absolutely so.")) So going in with neutral expectations, how is Haunter?
We first meet Lisa when she's woken up by her younger brother's walkie-talkie, which he left in her room again. Her mother asks her to do the laundry and what she wants to do for her 16th birthday tomorrow, but Lisa claims she did the laundry yesterday and dismisses the question in a snarky way. This isn't the usual teenage snark, however. You see, Lisa's has been repeating same day for as long as she can remember. Her whole family has been doing that, only she's the only one who realizes it. However, while she's lived these days over and over again, we witness something changing. The first act of the film we see Lisa explore and learn a little bit more each day. Usually these attempts are aborted the first time around (sometimes due to a jump scare) but she gets braver and braver each time around. On the other hand, she also notices a change in her father, who begins to smoke and develops a really nasty temper.
Things come to a head one day when Lisa's father starts messing up the place accusing her mother of stealing the spark plugs. He begins to come after Lisa when the doorbell rings. It's the telephone repair man, who asks to come inside and check the lines. Instead, he gets Lisa alone and asks her how long she's been awake, aware, and then warns her not to snoop around or contact the living. After he leaves, everything is reset to how it was before she realized she was reliving the same day over and over again. But despite the warning, Lisa can't keep living the same day again and again, so she continues to try and learn the truth, eventually contacting the living girl who currently resides in her house.
At this point, we run into serious spoilers, so we will end the plot summary there.
When I first saw the poster to Haunter, my first thought was that it looked like an episode of Goosebumps or The Haunting Hour and now that I've seen it, I don't think my initial reaction was that far off. That is not an insult, but the film is a bloodless horror film that I'm pretty sure is aimed at a younger target demographic, most likely girls about the same age as Lisa was in the movie. I think for this target demographic, the film will be a success. It is very moody and sets the tension very well. Abigail Breslin is excellent as the lead, a young lady who is at first understandably freaked out by the situation, but slowly finds the courage needed. Stephen McHattie is also amazing as the villain. He really needs more exposure outside of Canada. It's a low budget movie, but Vincenzo Natali gets a lot out of the production.
On the downside, adult fans of horror might have a harder time getting involved in the movie. If you are not engaged by the setup and the mood doesn't get you, then the pacing will move far too slowly to get you hooked. There are also too many jump scares to go with the tension and mood. As I've said in the past, one or two jump scares are fine, but after that, they lose their effectiveness and if if they do scare the audience, the audience will begin to resent the filmmakers for being so cheap. Finally, I'm sure if you think about it too hard, the plot would begin to fall apart. The time travel aspect of the movie (way too far into spoiler territory to explain that) and time travel is always problematic when it comes to continuity. Suspension of disbelief is needed.
Extras begin with not one, but two audio commentary tracks, the first with the director, Vincenzo Natali, and the second with the writer, Brian King. There is also a 21-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. Finally, you can look at the entire storyboard for the movie.
The film is a low-budget movie, so don't expect the same technical presentation as a big-budget release would have. Also, the film has issues with clarity and color reproduction, but for aesthetic reasons. Because the world we see the most is the world of the dead, the video is sometimes blurry and the colors are off, to emphasize the otherworldliness we are seeing. That said, when called upon, the video delivers and there are no digital artifacts or compression issues to deal with. The audio is as good with plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, which is essential for this genre.
At the moment, both the DVD and the Blu-ray cost just $10. That's awesome. It is awesome that the Blu-ray costs no more than the DVD and it is awesome you can buy the Blu-ray for just $10.
Haunter feels like a horror film aimed at a younger audience because it is built on tension and mood with no gore and very little violence. I liked it, but if you prefer kills and gore, this one won't hold your attention. There are better than expected extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray, while the price is hard to beat. Pick it up right away.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2014-02-10