Director Vincenzo Natali’s “Haunter” is a major departure from his 2010 hyper sexual science fiction monster movie “Splice.” It’s in many ways much more tame, and occasionally can feel like a PG-13 outing. It’s still a pretty grim and occasionally creepy horror film, but it can also be an interesting fantasy film that works in twisting the conventions of the ghost tale to, for once, make the victim of the movie monster the heroine.
Lisa is a young girl perpetually stuck in a state of deja vu that involves her odd family, and their life in a fog covered house in the suburbs. After consistently repeating the same routine in her life, Lisa begins to realize that something is afoot. Breaking through her house eventually helps her comprehend that she’s also breaking in to her reality, and soon she discovers that something doesn’t want her to be conscious of her environment. Abigail Breslin gives a very good performance as young Lisa, a teens steeped in her routine who begins seeking ways to destroy the loop of time that plagues her life.
What starts out as a journey in to the unknown transforms in to a fight for survival against a being known as the Pale Man. Not only does Lisa begin battling the pale man for her own soul, but for the souls of the many other young girls that have occupied her house and the ones that currently occupy her house. Director Natali is very skilled in transforming Lisa’s world in to a labyrinth filled with twists and turns, and creates an environment where nothing is ever as it seems. Even when we’re certain of where Lisa is, and how she’s helping a potential victim, the current state of being is still just an illusion.
There’s plenty of atmosphere and dread present, with actor Stephen McHattie providing a great performance as Lisa’s father and the inadvertent pale man, who is quite determined to keep Lisa grounded in her state of repetition. Natali unfolds an interesting mystery filled with many interesting revelations and unique plays on environment. There’s a great sense of tension whenever Lisa begins to see her own world for what it really is, and McHattie poses as a formidable for with a horrific presence who holds Lisa’s entire existence in his hands. “Haunter” is a neat and entertaining horror mystery and one that really helps to display Abigail Breslin as a promising actress of the genre.
There are two commentaries for audiences, one of which is with director Vincenzo Natali. Mr. Natali offers some excellent advice on low budget filmmaking, and provides some unique anecdotes about the challenges of making movies on a very limited budget. There’s the other commentary with writer Brian King, who discusses the evolution of his script, and some of his regrets and observations on the final product that appears on screen, and what he would have done differently. There’s a twenty minute behind the scenes segment with interviews with the entire cast, and a long slideshow of storyboards for “Haunter.” There’s the teaser poster, the original trailer, and additional trailers for IFC Films.