Combustible Celluloid
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With: Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Nolden, David Hewlett
Written by: Brian King
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 97
Date: 10/18/2013

Haunter (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Is There a Ghost?

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Cult director Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) has come up with an unusual, refreshing take on a typical ghost story. In Haunter, there's no emphasis on gore, blood, language, or sex. Even the scary stuff is muted; instead, the focus is on good, strong characters, an idea, and a mood. The house is kept enshrouded in gray fog, and yet nothing ever seems unnaturally dark. Likewise, the story is cleverly unveiled, getting the biggest "twist" out of the way early so that the characters become more important than plot.

Lisa Johnson (Abigail Breslin) seems to be living the same day over and over again, the same interactions with her mom, dad, and little brother, same meals, same Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt, same episode of "Murder, She Wrote" on TV. Unfortunately, Lisa isn't stuck in "Groundhog Day." She and her family are dead and trapped in their house, surrounded by fog. But Lisa begins hearing strange noises, and upon investigating, learns that a series of young women have been kidnapped and killed in this very house. Lisa can't save herself, but she may be able to help the killer's next intended victim.

Abigail Breslin's natural sweetness and charisma helps sell the conflicting concepts that, although she's sick of her family, she still loves them. And although she's scared of what's going on, she won't stop investigating. Her rapport with the other characters in the movie suggests a genuine connectedness, and a desire to help (as well as the courage to ask for help). It's as if Natali's supernatural setting stripped away all earthly concerns and arrived at something startlingly pure.

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