Sunday, July 20, 2014

Film Review: Haunter (2013)

Haunter (Review)
Canada/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...it's mild in all of its genre elements."

Lisa Johnson (Abigail Breslin) is a teenage ghost trapped in her home and living the same day over and over. Lisa eventually begins to unravel the mystery surrounding her death, while trying to help Olivia, the current resident of the home, avoid her own.

Haunter is creative and interesting, or at least it begins as such. The formula -- living the same day over and over -- becomes tired and repetitive after the first act. Lisa then attempts to find out more about her death, but really doesn't do much investigating. She gets help from Olivia, but Olivia has a very minor role in the film, so the character is practically obsolete and serves more as a convenient aid for the mystery. The film comes full circle way before the ending, yet Haunter still manages to drag its feet to the finish line. The ending itself is understandable, but there isn't much explanation to how it happens.

Haunter is a decent horror-mystery-thriller film. The suspense it creates is mild. The jump-scares help in capturing your attention if you've drifted off, but they're not really scary. The mystery is interesting, but the nonexistent investigation makes it difficult to fully captivate. In fact, that's one of the problems with the film: it starts off interesting, sure, but it never really hooks you. And, that becomes a bigger problem when the story continuously repeats itself, pounding you over and over with a simple mystery like if it's the Black Dahlia investigation. The best way to explain the film is as mild -- it's not a full-blow mystery, a heart-pounding thriller, or a terrifying horror film -- it's mild in all of its genre elements.

Although most of the supporting cast is decent, I thought Abigail Breslin was mediocre. Breslin's dialogue and delivery feel very unnatural and insincere. I was expecting more due to the fanbase hype, but Breslin disappoints, especially as a leading lady. The film looks fantastic, though, I loved the cinematography. I also really enjoyed the music and how well it compliments the film. Together, the cinematography and music create a decent atmosphere -- an atmosphere much more engaging than the actual story. Director Vincenzo Natali does well on the technical side, but his direction quickly loses steam after the first act and has trouble recovering.

Overall, Haunter is an ambitious yet familiar film. I don't fault it for being familiar, not at all. I do fault it for being disengaging, repetitive and occasionally boring, though; I also fault it for Abigail Breslin's disappointing performance. Otherwise, it does offer some entertainment value, such as the atmosphere, cinematography, and the music, and a very solid introduction. I recommend a rental, a purchase for fans of the lead or genre. (at a low price, of course)

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence.

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