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Haunter (2013)

IFC Films
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/11/2014

All Ratings out of



Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/10/2014

If you're a regular reader of DVDSleuth.com, then you know that I watch a lot of horror movies, even more than are reported on here at the site. And I was watching tons of scary films long before the website was started. And for those thousands of movies, only a small percentage of them were truly interesting and impressive. The problem is that horror movies love to latch onto trends and they can seem interchangeable. As much as we claim to crave original ideas, copycat movies continue to spawn like enemies in a video game. Therefore, when a movie comes along that has anything remarkable to say, one must sit up and take notice. Haunter may not be 100% original, but it is so skillfully made and engaging that it instantly captivates the audience.

Lisa (Abigail Breslin) awakes every morning to the same thing. It's what appears to be a normal day in 1985. Her little brother, Robbie (Peter DaCunha), plays with his walkie-talkies and his Atari Pac-Man game. Between making meals, her Mom (Michelle Nolden), buts Lisa about doing the laundry, while her Dad (Peter Outerbridge) works on the car. After dinner, the family watches Murder She Wrote. Lisa can't go outside do a thick fog which obscures the yard. Lisa knows that she's living the same day over and over again, but the rest of her family is oblivious to this and they keep going through the motions. Then, suddenly, things begin to change. Lisa begins to hear voices calling her name, and she learns about the previous owner of her house. A dark force has entered her home and it is out to get her family. How can she convince them that they are in danger?

It's interesting that Haunter is set in 1985, as it certainly harkens back to a time when many horror movies were mysteries and there was a sense that the audience was going to be slowly introduced to the story. The film certainly embraces this notion and it peels back the plot layer by layer creating a sense of "What's going to happen next?" which grabs the viewer and doesn't let go until the end. At the outset, the movie feels like a darker version of Groundhog Day, as we watch Lisa repeat the same day. (In a great move, the film knows that we are already familiar with this idea, so it doesn't stretch it out any longer than necessary.) But, as the story grows, and more elements of the plot are added, we realize that what we are watching is much more akin to a feature-length version of an episode of The Twilight Zone.

The way in which Haunter jumps into the story grabs the viewer, but its the way in which the story unfolds which keeps the audience's attention. The script by Brian King is very clever in the way that it plays upon our expectations and keeps changing gears. The movie is also very subtle at the outset, and it never over-explains things. (Astute members of the audience will pick up on pieces of dialogue and realize that they've just heard an important clue which will most likely tie into something later on in the film.) The movie truly keeps us guessing as it has ghosts, possessions, serial killers, revenge motifs, and elements from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

This may immediately conjure the notion that the movie is unoriginal, but it never feels that way. Haunter is familiar enough that we feel comfortable going along for the ride with it, but it's never predictable (until the finale). Again, the way in which the story is revealed gives us enough to keep moving, but the movie is still full of surprises. Director Vincenzo Natali (who brought us 2010's inventive Splice) again proves himself to be someone to watch in horror. Not many contemporary directors would have had the patience to let Haunter run its course in such a precise fashion. I apologize that I've been so vague about the story, but Haunter succeeds by surprising us and I don't want to give anything away. Suffice it to say that this is the best horror movie that I've seen since Insidious. And while Haunter isn't scary or creepy like that movie, it's intelligence and heart make it required viewing.

Haunter also brought back a lot of memories from the 80s on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of IFC Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or obvious defects from the source material. However, when Lisa ventures into the fog, her light creates very obvious blooming patterns which can't be ignored. That aside, the colors look good and the image is never overly dark. The level of detail is good and the way in which several shots are constructed show off the transfer's depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The sounds in the film offer many opportunities for this track to shine, as the various noises coming from around the house are nicely distributed to the front and rear channels. The surround speakers bring us individual sounds at times and the subwoofer booms during the "shock" scenes. This track really adds to the overall experience of the film.

The Haunter Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. "Behind the Scenes" (21 minutes) features interviews with Natali and King, as well as much of the cast. We get an overview of the characters and story, as well as a discussion of the look of the film and the production. We get some on-set footage here, but the piece is made up mostly of the interviews and clips from the movie. "The Complete Storyboards by Vincenzo Natali" (55 minutes) is a unique feature in that it shows us all of the storyboards for the film, some of which are different from the finished product. The extras are rounded out by the "Teaser Poster" for the film and a TRAILER.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long