Abigail Breslin stars in Haunter a Canadian horror film with a twist. It is currently available on Netflix which continues to deliver hidden gems which, for one reason or another, do not receive the attention they deserve when initially released in theaters. The film’s cast consists of Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Zombieland) along with Stephen McHattie (Pontypool, 300) and a stellar supporting group that includes some of Canada’s finest actors and actresses. You can watch the trailer below and you will see that this film is one of many “over the border” productions that impresses as it thrills.
Possibly the main reason behind its limited release is fact that the film is Canadian. It could explain the lack of fanfare although there is really no excuse for such a superior film to be opened so softly in the U.S. The film, written by Matthew Brian King and Brian King and directed by Vincenzo Natali (who is responsible for the superlative films Ginger Snaps, Splice and Cube), takes a note from the screenplay of Nicole Kidman’s offbeat, and another out-of-the-box film, the 2001 horror movie The Others. Breslin plays 15 year-old teen named Lisa who is seemingly caught in a Twilight Zone world where every day is a sort of bland Groundhog Day that is an exact replica of the day before.
Lisa’s sixteenth birthday is the next day, which never comes, and no one except the 15 year-old is aware that the same day repeats itself over and over and over…
Lisa is desperate to escape this sameness, which she believes is possible because they are all dead. She does not know how they died, but to her, this is the only explanation. One day, while practicing her clarinet – playing along with that old classic piece Peter and the Wolf she hears another clarinet playing the same notes.
She begins to investigate this odd occurrence, which turns into many incidents, and as she experiences more scary interactions with another person, her repetitive days begin to change. Her father starts smoking; her parents argue; and a stranger suddenly shows up at the front door to check their telephones.
This stranger gives Lisa a warning: “Do not pay attention to the odd noises you hear and do not attempt to contact the living. You and your family will suffer if you do.” This warning is just the beginning for the teenage girl and her quest to escape this eternal trap she is in.
This ghost story, seen from the point of the ghosts, is a brilliant exercise in suspense and delivers an outstanding, and clever, attention to detail that keeps the viewer on edge as Lisa, and eventually others, begin to understand what is happening and why. The film shows perfectly the dissatisfied teen girl, who wants to get away from her repetitive existence. Haunter stars Abigail Breslin as the dead girl in Haunter and this Canadian horror film with a twist delivers on all cylinders. It is surprising to learn that IMDb has given the movie an unbelievably low score of 5.9 percent.
Breslin, McHattie and the rest of the cast sell this story and their characters with an aplomb that borders on genius. Acting kudos aside, it is the script itself with its little touches that impresses the most. The, abovementioned, attention to detail, such as the family watching the same endless program of Murder She Wrote every single night and the discord when one night they do not, is unsettling. As the teen spirit learns who she has been contacting as well as discovering why, the pieces of this ghostly puzzle fit perfectly.
I watched Haunter from start to finish in an engrossed state that kept me guessing throughout as to what the outcome would be for Lisa and her family. An air of believability encompasses the whole film. The lighting is suitably murky and dark which goes a long way to convincing the viewer that something isn’t right, even before learning that these ghosts are doomed to repeat the same day throughout eternity.
Using old “horror pro” McHattie was a stroke of genius and Peter Outerbridge, who has always made me think of Peter Fonda, does a superlative job as the possessed father figure. Breslin and her convincing performance are proof positive that some child stars are destined for bigger and better things when they get older. The Little Miss Sunshine star has matured into an performer with depth and an ability to give her character an impressive reality.
Looking on the Internet you will find that this excellent bit of ghostly suspenseful horror was given a limited release via the offices of IFC Midnight, which is an offshoot of IFC which is owned by the good folks who bring up The Walking Dead; AMC Networks. They also released another brilliant little horror film that starred Stephen McHattie; the 2008 film Pontypool.
My only complaint with the film is that towards the end, when Lisa revisits her house in an earlier time, the filmmakers opted to change the film to an almost sepia muted color in appearance. The film becomes grainy and “crackly” which serves to remind the audience, at least it did to me, that they are watching a film. While it was annoying, it did not dilute the film’s overall impact.
This Canadian horror film delivers a brilliant storyline; interesting characters; one heck of a villain and superb performances throughout. Starring Abigail Breslin, Haunter is a movie with a twist and Netflix is running this hidden gem right now. This 2013 film was sadly under released and obvously overlooked during its theatrical run and it is worth a look or two. After watching this film, I could not wait to “put pen to paper” and write a review. On a scale of one to five, with five representing the pinnacle of perfection, this film gets a full five. Have a look at the film’s trailer and then watch this brilliant ghost story with a difference.
By Michael Smith