It’s “Rosemary’s Baby” meets “The Toolbox Murders” in what I can easily describe as one of the glossier movies I’ve ever seen that look an awful lot like a cable TV movie of week. That’s neither a compliment nor an insult, as “Havenhurst” is comfortably in the middle ground of horror mysteries. It’s too shallow to be a morality tale, and too stern to be considered exploitation. A lot of the concept doesn’t entirely make much sense, especially when you consider how much work it would be to dispose of so many corpses and pull off the operation the owners of the apartment complex do without a lot of police interference and whatnot. Havenhurst is a Gothic apartment complex in the middle of New York that is painted a lot in the same shades Roman Polanski painted his domain in “Rosemary’s Baby.” Its smack dab in the middle of the city and sticks out like a sore thumb, but its underbelly is immense and incomprehensible.
Ex-alcoholic Jackie is invited to move there by her friend Danielle (Danielle Harris in an unfortunately clumsy cameo) to recuperate and get her life back in order. The Gothic hotel like building houses nothing but addicts and ex-convicts, all of whom are allowed to stay within the residence so long as they commit to sobriety and clean living. Jackie moves in promising to stay away from alcohol and is surprised to learn that her friend Danielle has suddenly disappeared without much of a trace. Before long Jackie befriends her neighbor Sarah who is living with an abusive mom and sexually abusive dad. Sarah suspects that her neighbors that fall back in to their habits are being mysteriously offed by a presence within the walls of the complex, and soon enough Jackie begins to investigate the odd events ensuing around her.
“Havenhurst” revolves around the inexplicability of what is happening to every guest that dives back in to their old habits, and from there it’s not much of a progression. Those that fail are ensnared, captured, and tortured for their various vices and sins. The gore almost seems tacked on to what is basically a soft R rated movie altogether. It’s odd to see how director Andrew C. Erin seems to vie for a lot of mood, and tension (especially with Fionnula Flanagan playing the very beady eyed caretaker of Havenhurst, Eleanor) to then cut to a character being mutilated while conscious. It feels like someone in the production called for a ton of gore and grue and none of it ever fits. That said, the performances are at least strong with Flanagan doing a great job as the menacing Eleanor, and Julie Benz (Does she ever age?) as the flawed protagonist Jackie, who is trying to uncover the mystery of “Havenhurst.”
I really like the concept behind Andrew C. Erin’s “Havenhurst,” it just never accomplishes very much with its premise in the end. It never seems to know if it wants to be a morality tale, a slasher movie, or a murder mystery, so it feels so confused and tonally imbalanced. It’s at best, a mediocre genre entry as everything feels very low stakes, and nothing is ever logically resolved or given a satisfying conclusion.
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