Thursday, October 24, 2013

Haunter (2013)(Minor Spoilers Review)

**This review contains MINOR spoilers, no plot twists, reveals, or major twists**

Lisa Johnson (Abigail Breslin) can’t bask in the joy of her upcoming sixteenth birthday. Living with her mother, Carol (Michelle Nolden) her father, Bruce (Peter Outerbridge), and her little brother, Robbie (Peter DaCunha), Lisa struggles to discover the secrets behind a daily repetitive routine that never changes. Robbie wakes Lisa up with a walkie-talkie transmission for a treasure hunt with his imaginary friend, Edgar. Pancakes are for breakfast, Carol makes meatloaf with macaroni and cheese for dinner, chocolate ice cream is served for dessert, the family plays board games together, and as a group, they all watch Murder She Wrote. And for some alone time, Lisa goes up to her room to play the clarinet. Sounds like a peaceful, fun, and happy life, right?

In her never ending mission to uncover the truth behind a mysterious time warp, Lisa will confront The Pale Man (Stephen McHattie), a malevolent entity, to find the answers she’s looking for, but Lisa’s journey will lead her into a sinister and cursed universe filled with dark, haunting secrets.

The two best performances come from Breslin and McHattie, easily. Breslin shows a commanding presence in the leading role as Lisa. Before the story develops, you’ll quickly get the impression Lisa is your typical rebellious, punk teen, but there’s more to her character. Breslin does a fantastic job of expressing the emotional heartache Lisa is forced to suffer throughout the film, as she fights to save her family and other innocent victims. And McHattie is the perfect foil for her character. McHattie has this creepy and cold-hearted demeanor as The Pale Man. He’s a menacing adversary, who enjoys toying with and torturing Lisa’s soul, and McHattie really nailed this character. The supporting cast isn’t bad at all, featuring a handful of solid performances from Outerbridge, Nolden, DaCunha.

You’ll have to have some patience with Haunter. They take the slow burn approach to unraveling the mystery behind The Pale Man here. Lisa has to pay careful attention to the little clues (missing laundry, missing spark plugs, plans for her birthday party, etc.) and hints in the repeating timelines for a better chance to fight The Pale Man on an even playing ground, because The Pale Man controls everything in the house. Trust me, all the pieces to the puzzle won’t fall into place until the very end.

The story strays into a convoluted mess towards the end, but I still had a fun time with Haunter. Director Vincenzo Natali deserves a lot of credit for creating a genuinely creepy and spooky atmosphere for Haunter, and the one chilling image of a shadowed Pale Man standing in the background of an old home movie with Lisa’s family. And I can’t forget about the two strong performances from Breslin and McHattie. Haunter is loaded with problems, but the intriguing mystery and the deadly game of cat and mouse between Lisa and The Pale Man will keep you guessing until the very end. 

Rating: 7/10

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