Thursday, October 24, 2013

Haunter (2013)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

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?

Well, Lisa is sick and tired of reliving the same day of events over and over again. Determined to find more answers to the puzzling dilemma, Lisa takes a bicycle ride into the foggy night to find another house, more people, or some much needed help. But during her journey in the fog, Lisa is unable to find anything. No people, no more houses, no streets, nothing.

Eventually, Lisa uncovers the devastating truth behind the time warp in her house: years ago, Lisa and her entire family were murdered by a malevolent entity, who possessed her father. The entity known as The Pale Man (Stephen McHattie) jumps from different time periods to murder unsuspecting families living in Lisa’s house by possessing the father. With help from spirits of past victims, Lisa plans to outsmart The Pale Man, so she can set everything back to normal, and save the victimized families. But if Lisa fails in her mission, herself, her family, and all the other victimized families of the past will suffer an eternity of continuous monotony.

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.

How is Lisa going to stop The Pale Man’s murderous rampage once and for all? It’s the big question for Haunter, and the answer isn’t so simple. First, Lisa receives help from a past victim named Olivia (Eleanor Zichy). Olivia points Lisa in the right direction to stop The Pale Man….but it’s not over yet. After a while, Lisa realizes Robbie’s imaginary friend Edgar (David Knoll) isn’t imaginary at all. Edgar is The Pale Man as a child, and Edgar murdered his own parents in the house before embarking on a killing spree for decades as a vicious entity.

Yeah, a few problems here. First, Haunter leads you down a path to believe The Pale Man solely kidnapped and murdered young girls, but the story takes another turn, when they reveal The Pale Man possesses the fathers of families to murder entire families. Okay. Apparently, Lisa is capable of time travel, because she’s able to jump to different time periods with help from Olivia and The Pale Man. Somehow Lisa has the ability to speak to the bones of murdered victims to call for their help? Seriously? Sorry, but The Pale Man helping Lisa is a huge gap in logic here. Why is Lisa’s enemy leading her in the right direction to stop him? That doesn’t make sense.

Absurdity is a noticeable problem, and I rolled my eyes at the tired and clichéd “mirror jump scare” trick in horror films. Lisa is standing in the mirror, there’s no one else in the reflection of the mirror, Lisa bends down to pick something up, and when she looks in the mirror again, Olivia’s ghost is standing behind her! Surprise! Ugh. This jump scare didn’t do anything for me, because it’s so predictable, and I’m pretty sure a lot of my fellow horror fans have seen this trick over and over again in various films. The shock factor isn’t there anymore, and it’s not scary, because the mirror trick has been done to death over the years.

And to make matters worse they had to insert a freakin’ Ouija board into the movie. To make contact with the spirits, Lisa digs up a Uija board in the basement for some help. Of course, at first, nothing happens then all of the sudden, when you least expect it, the Oujia board’s indicator mysteriously moves by itself to answer Lisa. Again, there’s no shock factor for this trick, because we’ve seen it before, and for first-timers, you can easily anticipate the Oujia board coming to life and answering Lisa.

The story strays into a convoluted mess towards the end, but with all my complaining, 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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