Lisa (Abigail Breslin) and her family are ghosts living a Groundhog Day-like existence until Lisa ‘wakes up’ and realizes they are dead; she then begins to investigate the house and draws the ire of another ghost, this one pure evil.
Resembling a mixture of Groundhog Day and The Others, Haunter is a captivating haunted house horror mystery with exceptional performances by Breslin and Stephen McHattie. McHattie plays the evil ghost of Edgar Mullens, the previous owner of the home Lisa and her family died in. Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice), he brings in atmosphere to spare along with extraordinary visuals to create a haunted house film that stands on its own from the more recent glut of exceptional horror films like Insidious, Insidious 2, Sinister, and The Conjuring. While not quite as good as those titles mentioned, Haunter is a well done horror film that should be seen by fans of the genre.
Lisa and her family are living in a state of perpetual purgatory, reliving the same day over and over again, not realizing there is anything wrong. One day, Lisa wakes up and realizes what is happening, but her family doesn’t have any clue. As the film progresses, she begins to discover that there is more to the house than meets the eye as she slowly begins to piece together the circumstances of their death while attempting to help the living who are abiding in the house as well.
To go into any more details on the plot of the film would spoil some of the mystery surrounding the proceedings. The film is actually more of a mystery than a horror film as Lisa attempts t wake her family up while dealing with the evil entity that also resides in the home. By focusing squarely on Lisa, you learn what she learns as she learns it, piecing the mystery together as she does. It is an interesting take on the haunted house film, but not completely original. While watching the film, I was constantly reminded of the Nicole Kidman-starrer, The Others. While done in a completely different style than that film, this film and that have a couple of things in common. First, both of the protagonists are already ghosts. Second, they are both visual treats, beautiful to look at with distinct visual styles.
With the recent avalanche of found footage horror films, it is incredibly refreshing to see a film that eschews that tired filmmaking trope for more traditional storytelling. The camera always stays focused on what you are seeing and learning, a quiet, steady view that does this film justice.
That’s not to say that everything is peachy keen in this film, though. There are a couple of plot holes that left me questioning the film. They mainly occur near the end of the film, though, so I can’t go into detail regarding them for fear of spoilers. In a mystery film like this, spoilers will be the end of your enjoyable viewing experience, so just know that there are a couple of questionable story decisions in the last third of the film that may have you scratching your head.
I thoroughly enjoyed Haunter. It is a nice, quiet haunted house mystery with wonderful performances and a very distinct visual style. It does enough different to differentiate itself from the other haunted house films that have come before. While it is not the most original film I have ever seen, it is intriguing enough to keep you entertained through the last frame as you try to piece together it’s central mystery.
*** out of ****
BIZZAM!! Spoiler ALERT!!
- I wonder why the red door that led to Edgar’s ‘trophy/murder’ room was never discovered by police after Lisa and her family were murdered. Lisa finds the door, which can be explained away by her being a ghost and living in the same house she died in in the same time period. When she switches bodies with Olivia, the living girl in our time period, the door is still there, just covered over. Nobody ever bothered to see what was in there before covering it over? They never discovered the remains of Edgar’s victims, whose bones are still in the furnace? Curiously questionable. . .