“Haunter” Movie Review
Haunter takes an interesting spin on haunted house movies and teen angst – namely that it literally compares suburban middle-class living to hell. Now this spin is what makes the film, and although it’s often best to go into movies blind, it won’t ruin it to know that the twist here is that the main character, Lisa, is already dead – and actually haunting somebody herself. This of course raises some really interesting questions about what the ghosts in haunting movies must themselves be feeling, and the nature of hauntings from the other-worldly perspective, but does it make a good horror movie?
The production of Haunter feels claustrophobic and limited, which is in some ways the filmmakers’ intention. It takes place almost entirely in Lisa’s house and its shadowy under-realm. Reality comes unglued and there’s a mysterious incinerator and some fog for good measure, but trust, it’s still in the same place. Again, this harkens to the hellish banality of suburbia – where you can wind the clock back or forward twenty years and the only thing that changes are the appliances – but which also cleverly imparts Lisa’s frustration with her situation on the viewer the way that only the foggy-headed, inexplicably angry attitude one feels during caffeine withdrawal can.
Similarly, the character development is pretty cramped as well, even for a horror film. The characters are ghostly apparitions themselves; they have absolutely no substance to them. If you find yourself wondering during the film why you should be caring about a character, you’re in trouble. Lisa is obviously the most nuanced of the cast, but the most I could tell you about her is that her eyes and hair are brown, and that’s pushing it. Her mother makes breakfast, and her father is really, really, angry. Lisa’s little brother is a person, too, I guess.
Haunter’s sound is where the film hits its stride. The atmosphere created by Paul Germann, the sound designer had more weight, feeling, and attitude, than any of the acting. Sound has proven time and again to be paramount in establishing atmosphere – particularly in horror – and I’m glad that this film got at least that much right.
I started to think about halfway through the film that – and if you’re not familiar with it, you might enjoy checking it out – Haunter was starting to remind me of 1999’s Stir of Echoes. Echoes too begins as a genuinely creepy haunted house story that eventually comes to rest as something a lot less foreboding. Haunter clearly had a finite amount of steam available in the start, and it eats through it fast.
All in all, Haunter has some novelty to it, but not the kind I’m likely to share with anybody unless I find myself a college philosophy professor in the near future. The story feels clouded, uncertain, and a little confusing. Themes are established without purpose, and characters without souls. If you’re looking for a kind of mindless scare that will sit a few seats away from you in the theater and leave a few minutes early, it’ll do you good. This film was mild Tostitos salsa.