October 20, 2013

Haunter (2013)

"The ghost of a teenager who died years ago reaches out to the land of the living in order to save someone from suffering her same fate."

Remember Vincenzo Natali the director of "Cube" (1997) and "Splice" (2009)? Well, he's back with a supernatural mystery which is available via VOD just in time for Hallowe'en. Don't get too excited, though, because "Haunter" tries to be more cerebral than scary and fails at being either.

The biggest problem is that "Haunter" is another typically Canadian remix of over half a dozen already extremely well known movies and at least two recent TV shows.

The first things I thought of when I started watching it were "Groundhog Day" (1993), "The Lovely Bones" (2009), "Voices" (1973), and "Lady in White" (1988), but there are also some quite blatant borrowings from "The Others" (2001), "Marchlands", and "American Horror Story". Throw in a few tiny homages to "The Collector" (1965), "The Matrix" (1999), and even "Dark Skies" (2013), and you have your movie.

If the wind changes, you'll stay like that. Oh wait...

As "Haunter" is essentially a ghost story, there are bound to be some formulaic similarities to previous ghost stories, but that's still no excuse for all the cloning. It's laziness for the most part, although it's dangerously close to plagiarism in others. I've only read parts of "The Lovely Bones" novel and have never seen Peter Jackson's movie adaptation, but if I can see the resemblances, I'm sure Alice Sebold will!

I'm not saying that "Haunter" isn't fairly enjoyable or well made. The cinematography borders on beautiful, and atmospherically, it's not a million miles away from Spanish thrillers such as "The Orphanage" (2007) or several of the more "girlie" Asian horrors. The acting is competent too, apart from Abigail Breslin who only has one big-eyed expression and is prone to sighing, gasping, and breathing heavily to compensate. Consequently, there are more close-ups than are strictly necessary, but that's a minor niggle.

The three time periods of 1985, the present day, and the late 1950s look the part as far as I can tell. As somebody who has no idea what Ontario looked like in the main 1985 time zone, I assume that kids were into much the same things as I was, but I'm a bit dubious about the Atari games console or Siousxie and the Banshees still being popular in the mid-80s rather than 3 or 4 years before. I've always imagined Canada as being a few years behind everyone else, so maybe it's spot on. My Canadian readers will have to let me know.

Overall, "Haunter" is a decent but very predictable PG-13 ghost story with no scares, no swearing or nudity, and very little violence. It's an upgrade for teenage fans of "Goosebumps" or "Are You Afraid of the Dark", but it's far too kiddified if you're an adult. I'll give it an extra point because it held my interest to the end.

This poster sucks! Why is she in a jar? Why?

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