Friday, April 18, 2014

Streaming Vincenzo Natali's latest scare flick: HAUNTER, with a well-used Abigail Breslin

TrustMovies has greatly enjoyed the half-dozen films by Vincenzo Natali that he's so far seen, so viewing HAUNTER, which received highly mixed notices from critics and audiences, was still a shoo-in. Sure enough, Natali and his writer Brian King take a bunch of much-used terror tropes and ghost goings-on but bounce them around creatively until they come out rather fresh. The movie will bring to mind The Others, Groundhog Day, the Amityvilles and another half-dozen well-trod tales but still manages to become its own special story as it moves interestingly along.

Natali, shown at left, has always had a smart visual sense combined with an enjoyment of fun and games, all of which is put to use here. He begins his film with the ever-involving what's-going-on-here? scenario and then allows us to find out -- but only partially. The movie keeps unfolding its secrets slowly and quietly.

As its star, the filmmaker has chosen Abigail Breslin (below), a smart young actress who seems willing to try various genres and roles within them, usually to good effect. Here she brings that intelligence coupled with typical teen-age annoyance (at parents and younger sibling) to the table and plays it for both humor and, later, drama and scares.

As her adversary, the well-worn Stephen McHattie (below, from the succulent Pontypool) is also a fine choice -- even scarier here than he usually is. The pair become a good example of well-matched antagonists of the horror genre.

While all of this proves interesting enough as it unfolds, there do seem to be some rough edges in terms of what, why and how. Natali elides these as best he can, so that we move along, questioning only lightly and momentarily until the next surprise/thrill occurs.

Basically the plot has us stuck in a house -- yes, it's dark and foggy outside, but relatively warm and friendly inside -- as we slowly come up against present, past and further past, as our heroine tries to prevent a serial killer from striking again. That's about as much as you need to know. So sit back, relax and enjoy Mr. Natali's nice visuals and the good job his cast does with the all-over-the-place plot.

Haunter, from IFC Midnight and running just a tad long at 97 minutes, streams now on Netflix, and also on Amazon Instant Video and elsewhere -- and can also be seen via DVD.

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