“Haunter” is the latest film from director Vincenzo Natali, who previously brought us the cult classic “Cube”, the cyber thriller “Cypher”, the experimental head-trip “Nothing”, and the exceptional modern monster movie “Splice”. The story concerns a teenage girl named Lisa played by Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”, “Zombieland”) who discovers that she is trapped in her home and reliving the same day over and over again. Before long Lisa learns that she and her family are dead (the victims of a serial killer) and attempts to communicate with another girl in the land of the living to save her family from suffering the same fate.
If this all sounds like some bizarre cinematic mash-up of “The Others”, “The Lovely Bones”, and “Groundhog Day”, well…that’s a fair assessment. Everything about “Haunter” feels not only like it has been done before, but also done better. The story is unoriginal, the characters are all walking stereotypes (right down to the black Siouxsie And The Banshees t-shirt that Breslin wears for the duration of the film), and the twists should come as no surprise to anyone with even a basic understanding of how modern horror films work. Perhaps that last point should be taken as a critique of the seemingly low standards of the entire genre these days and not merely a condemnation of this one movie, but…baby steps.
Breslin struggles to hold the film together in the lead role, but she isn’t entirely to blame since the script doesn’t do much to help her keep the audience engaged. Long-time character actor Stephen McHattie (“Pontypool”, “Watchmen”, and a slew of other titles ranging back to the 1970’s) has the look and the acting chops to make a very creepy villain, but also isn’t given much memorable to do. The rest of the cast are relative unknowns, but fans of Vincenzo Natali’s work shouldn’t be surprised to find David Hewlett (“Pin”, “Stargate: Atlantis”) in a small role.
While none of Natali’s films qualify as blockbusters (and most are probably entirely unknown to mainstream audiences), it is sad to see his name on such a disappointing horror film which brings nothing new to the table. Even the visuals reek of low budget direct-to-DVD production values. Don’t let “Haunter” dissuade you from exploring Vincenzo’s filmography, though. “Cube” and “Splice” are both deserving of a lot more attention than they get.