An Entertaining Retro Haunter

by Nav Qateel

Ever since seeing the hugely talented, Oscar-nominated Abigail Breslin in the wonderfully witty Little Miss Sunshine, I’ve tried to catch everything the young starlet’s appeared in, and have so far not been once disappointed. Even her stuck-in-a-trunk performance in The Call, showed she had lost none of her fearlessness that the young can lose when childhood gets left behind.

Not only was Haunter the type of genre I enjoy, but, was also directed by someone I particularly admire. Vincenzo Natali has helmed several films that are among my favorites, like the acclaimed Cube, Cypher, and even the not so acclaimed Splice. I think it’s unfair to continually hold up Cube, to compare against everything Natali brings out, however, this is unfortunately to be expected when someone pushes the creative envelope as well as he did back in 1997.

Haunter is set in the early 80’s which was another reason I liked this movie, because I was in my late-teens back then and recognised everything that was shown. Like the posters for Joy Division or The Clash on Lisa’s walls, and her Siouxsie and the Banshees T-shirt. The film also jumps backwards in time briefly, plus we see more of the future, and watch as Lisa tries to work out how to use an iPad, or stares in awe at a kid playing on a Wii.

Directed by
Vincenzo Natali
Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, David Hewlett
Release Date
18 October 2013
Nav’s Grade: B

Haunter sees a young girl, Lisa (Breslin), reliving each day over and over, yet she’s the only one in a family of four, who seems to realise this. Her kid brother, Robbie (Peter DaCunha), wakes her up each morning with the same message blasting over a walkie-talkie, and her parents are repeating the same things too. Dad, Bruce (Peter Outerbridge) is always trying to get the car running, and mom, Carol (Michelle Nolden), is fixing the same breakfast. Lisa has tried to explain to her parents what’s happening to them, which only gets forgotten the next day.

Lisa starts to hear voices calling to her from different locations in her bedroom, particularly when she starts to practice playing her clarinet. She also catches glimpses of someone elusive, so when she begins to investigate, a mysterious figure comes to her home and warns her off looking into the strange occurrences. She also learns she’s no longer alive, and she and her family are destined to stay in their house. After a visit from another ghost, Lisa begins to delve deeper into the mystery of her own death.

It’s similar in many ways to Groundhog Day, without the humour of course, and, coincidently, Breslin and Bill Murray were both in Zombieland in 2009. Breslin’s excellent wide-eyed performance was key in Haunter, so much so, the rest of the cast felt almost like props by comparison. Stephen McHattie as the threatening and creepy pale figure was also decent, and suited his style well.

Natali’s sure direction sold the tale, and he kept up the tension admirably throughout the entire film, which was no small feat. As the story started to unfold, Natali began to crank up the dial, however, it admittedly never quite reached real terror, although, I don’t think that was ever his goal with Haunter. The direction paired with another solid outing for Breslin made this film better than it perhaps should have been, and the reveal at the end was enough to leave me feeling very satisfied. If you enjoy spooky ghost stories told with a retro twist, look no further than Haunter .