Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Film Review: The Haunting of Helena (2012)

The Haunting of Helena (Review)
Italy/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"Usually stupidity and plot contrivances can be excusable ... but these were laughably bad."

A single mother, Sophia (Harriet MacMasters-Green), moves into a new home with her daughter, Helena (Sabrina Jolie Perez). After her first tooth falls out, Helena is haunted by the tooth fairy...

The Haunting of Helena mainly follows Sophia as she tries to find out the sinister history of their new home and as she tries to save her daughter -- that's about it. The plot is very thin and inconsistent, and filled with clichés and tropes from other films; in fact, it feels more like a compilation of the director's favorite clichés, if you can believe that, rather than a full standalone film. The inconsistencies in the plot come from the storytelling; for example, a scene will present an issue, continue into a jump-scare, abruptly end, fading out into black, then a new scene starts completely ignoring the significance of the last. This repetitive formula continues up to the end. The ending itself had a nice surprise regarding our haunting tooth fairy, but it was also underwhelming.

I found it odd that despite the film being titled The Haunting of Helena, the story focuses much more on Sophia and her haunting. In fact, sometimes Helena is simply a backdrop for Sophia. Also, there are some really stupid scenes in this film. Usually stupidity and plot contrivances can be excusable, especially in horror film, but these were laughably bad. There's a scene where Sophia and Helena are running away from The Tooth Fairy but a piano is blocking the hallway horizontally; instead of easily climbing over the piano, Sophia tries to squeeze through a microscopic crack on the side; I almost died of laughter. These often hilarious scenes also riddle the film's plot.

As for the horror in the film, The Haunting of Helena is almost solely reliant on loud noise jump-scares. Only a few of these jump-scares are accompanied by effective suspense, so most are duds. The Tooth Fairy has a creepy design, and the first time you see her is great, but she is underutilized in this form. In fact, it shines most when it focuses on its eerie visuals, but the film would rather throw countless jump-scares at the audience than build a creepy atmosphere. Unfortunately, any little bit of horror this film offers can't redeem the story and the other flaws it has.

Harriet MacMasters-Green takes the lead with a serviceable performance. Most of the time she's okay, but when the performance demands emotion, she fumbles into bad territory. In fact, anytime her character scream, a stock scream is used instead! (you've hears it before, the female version of the Wilhelm scream.) Sabrina Jolie Perez isn't all great, either, often wooden and boring, but she has more promise than Harriet. I initially enjoyed the music, until I noticed it becoming repetitive. The film is shot well, though, and I enjoyed the cinematography and camerawork as it helps develop some style -- it's a saving grace for the film. Some of the special effects are surprisingly great, really better than most horror films. Director Christian Bisceglia fails to deliver a comprehensible plot and also fails to conjure any horror.

Overall, The Haunting of Helena is a bad horror movie. It has some decent jump-scares and some spooky visuals, and it moves at a fast enough pace, but the plot is terrible and the lead actress is barely mediocre. If you want something with better jump-scares, a more consistent story about The Tooth Fairy, and generally a funner film, I recommend Darkness Falls.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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