Stuck in purgatory (actually 1985): “Haunter”

October 22, 2013


I just watched Haunter, and came away thinking , hey—another movie that doesn’t totally suck. Is it my birthday? No, it can’t be that. Is karma repaying me for something good that I did? I can’t think of what that would be (I suggested to a co-worker that she should use her weekend to get a pedicure, but that doesn’t seem karma-worthy…she really was sporting a Wolverine-esque set of talons down there). Well, whatever, I’m not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. I mean, sooner or later I’m gonna end up watching Midnight Meat Train 2: Meatier and Trainier, so I might as well just enjoy this while it lasts.

Haunter is about a teenager named Lisa (Abigail Breslin) who has a really big problem. See, it’s the day before her birthday in 1985, and , no, neither of those things is her problem. Not her birthday (you get swag for being born) or the fact that it’s 1985 (dude, Rambo and Commando came out that year–that year was awesome). No, Lisa’s problem is that it’s the day before her birthday. It’s always the day before her birthday. She will go to bed that night, and when she wakes up the next morning, it’ll be the day before her birthday again.

This is not a new revelation for Lisa. She’s well-aware that she is stuck in some sort of purgatory, and she spends her time alternately going through the motions with the sullen resignation of the alt-kid she is, and imploring the rest of her family to understand they’re stuck in time. But then things start getting hinky.

See, she starts hearing noises and seeing flickers of another girl in her house. Also, the daily routine starts getting interrupted in little ways. Her kindly father (Peter Outerbridge), who is perpetually fixing the car starts talking to himself, and sometimes raging at his family before returning to his genial self. Sometimes he’s another person altogether, with a different face. When Lisa goes shack-happy and rides her bike into the oppressive fog that has seemingly cut the house off from civilization, she ends up back in her garage.

Slowly, it dawns on Lisa that she and her family are actually dead. Oh sorry, did I spoil it? Ha! No, I did not. This isn’t Static after all. Nope, this big reveal is just the beginning, as one day (same day) a man from the telephone company arrives at their door. A couple things are off about him. First off, he’s wearing sunglasses despite the thick fog. Second, he’s played by Stephen McHattie, who can exude malevolence just by smiling. He gives Lisa a stern warning: don’t try anything. Don’t contact the spectral figures. Don’t try to alert your family to the situation. Don’t rock the boat. If she does, he promises, she’ll suffer in ways she can’t imagine.

Well, Lisa’s not the type to bend to authority, so she the natural thing. She upsets the apple cart. And then the horror begins.

Now, Haunter is not a really scary movie per se. But it is creepy and very watchable. I wasn’t scared during its economical run time, but I was intrigued enough to want to see the plot puzzle itself out. When it does, it almost makes sense. There are some gaps in logic that you tend to get with a supernatural thriller, but it’s narrative MacGuffin is a solid and chilling one. And, refreshingly, one that doesn’t treat the supernatural elements like a sci-fi trope.

Of course the story would be pretty inert without some solid performances, and Haunter has them in spades. Anchoring the story, Breslin shows that she has grown into a gifted actress, and one whose unconventional looks work to her advantage. They help sell her as an awkward teenager and not a 20-something model pretending to be 15. They make her seem just a bit unreliable, which helps gives the movie it’s edge of instability. And McHattie, well, the guy’s awesome. Did you see him in Pontypool? No? Then watch Pontypool. Like, now, just go watch it. This review will still be here—it’s the freakin’ Internet, where’s it gonna go? In a million years, after the fall of man you’ll still be able to take time out of fighting giant Them-style ants for the last Twinkies to read this review.

Did you watch it? Good, then you know what I mean. McHattie is great, and gives great villain. He is supremely menacing in this role, playing a monster more innately evil than any sharp-object-wielding maniac ever could.

But even the supporting characters help promote the overall feeling of dread. Outerbridge tinges his genial manner with just the slightest hint of otherness, depriving us of an emotional anchor. And David Hewlitt as alterna-dad plays his character as a sort of befuddled time-bomb. He wants to go off, he just doesn’t know why.

So, yeah, check out Haunter. It’s in theaters now, but I’d recommend plunking down seven bucks to catch it on iTunes. I mean, what’s seven bucks get you these days in the US? A venti latte at Starbucks? A pack of cigarettes? I really don’t know—I don’t live in the US anymore. But the movie is really good.


  1. Have you seen the movie Heavenly Creatures? The true, chilling story of a 15 yr old girl and her friend who helped kill her mother. After one of the women got out of prison, she changed her name to Anne Perry and became a detective mystery writer.

    • Young Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey. Great movie. I think that’s also the movie that got Peter Jackson the Lord of the Rings gig (though I could be wrong about that).

  2. Brillant review, you’re hilarious! Really excited to see this, glad to hear its worth the watch!

    • Thanks for the compliment. I hope you enjoy the rest of the site.

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