Writer/director Vincenzo Natali has been a talent to watch ever since his feature debut Cube, in which he used a tiny budget, a single-room set and a handful of donated CGI effects to create an effective and claustrophobic high-concept sci-fi/horror movie.
If you have been keeping an eye on Natali then you may have already heard about Haunter, the first of his horror movies to stray fully into the area of the supernatural. Haunter stars Abigail Breslin as a teen who dies in suspicious circumstances in 1985 and is stuck in the house where she lost her life, repeating her final day on an endless loop until she finally manages to make contact with someone in the world of the living.
Haunter is headed to VOD in the fall after being shown at several festivals this year, and a trailer has finally been released to give horror fans an idea of what to expect. Most of the focus is on Haunter's main star, though her modern-day counterpart Olivia (Skins star Eleanor Zichy) makes plenty of appearances as well.
Natali's movies have a tendency towards interesting and unique concepts, though they don't always turn out well. The other key horror film on his résumé is the Frankenstein-inspired Splice, which starred Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as genetic engineers who create a hybrid "child" in their laboratory, and it's a good example of what Natali can do when on form. His low-budget minimalist comedy Nothing, in which two social outcasts' fierce resentment of the outside world grants them the power to hate things out of existence, is another of Natali's movies that is worth watching at least once, though it suffers from a sub-par script and inconsistent tone.
It's always difficult to tell exactly what to expect from a film based purely on the trailer, but so far Haunter looks like something of a mixed bag. The set-up and visuals are evocative of Alejandro Amenábar's 2002 haunted house tale The Others, but some of the scares and lines come across as a bit too cheesy to be taken seriously. The trailer also doesn't do a great job of communicating the basic plot; without knowing in advance, it's possible to miss the fact that Lisa is a ghost or even that she's repeating the same day on a loop - after all, plenty of teenagers complain that nothing new ever happens to them.
This lacklustre new poster for the film, in which Breslin's face has been photoshopped to the point where she's virtually unrecognizable, probably won't do much to grab potential viewers' attention either:
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On a more positive note, playing Haunter's murderous villain is Stephen McHattie, a great horror veteran who tends to be instantly recognizable due to the sheer number of movies and TV shows he's been in, and who can be counted on for a solid performance in Haunter. Also fleshing out the cast is Stargate Atlantis and Rise of the Planet of the Apes star David Hewlett, who has been a mainstay of Natali's movies ever since their student days.
Overall, Haunter looks a little disappointing considering it had so much potential, but it's best to reserve judgment until after a full viewing. Does this "Groundhog Day with ghosts" movie look like something you'll check out on release, or will you be giving Haunter a pass?
Haunter will be available on VOD from October 18, 2013.