61 Days of Halloween: Haunter (2013)

Introduction

For the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, as well as a list of previously featured titles, please go here.

Haunter (2013)

The synopsis of Haunter gives you facts that lead you quite a bit of the way into the story:

The ghost of a teenager who died years ago reaches out to the land of the living in order to save someone from suffering her same fate.

Given that as a starting point one would hope that there are layers to this tale, and those who share that hope will not walk away from this film disappointed. For while the comparisons that Haunter has drawn to both The Sixth Sense and Groundhog Day are not unwarranted, there is more at play here and a very intriguing myth being built after all.

The film’s cinematography has great panache and sets the tone throughout, the camera wanders through the world of the story and takes different vantage points on its early-stage déjà vu scenes.

For each of the characters within the story, be they live or be they dead, there is a moment of discovery. Our protagonist Lisa (Extremely well portrayed by Abigail Breslin) is the first to have such a discovery, and, as such, it is through her eyes that we experience this film and start to uncoil the mysteries therein.

One such mystery is what the exact nature of The Pale Man (Chillingly rendered by Stephen McHattie) be he natural or supernatural. As the myth starts to build and the pieces start to fall in place there are surprises in store and there are very intricately transgressed borders between the states of being. The way this handled allows there to continue to be a sense of mystery to the film.

While there is a slight leaden quality to pace towards the tale end of Act II, the conclusion is ultimately quite satisfying as the investment we as an audience have been asked to make in these characters is a fruitful one. Their fates are something that become a concern, and as those who have passed come to the realization that they are past more details fall into place.

Furthermore, the family dynamics, the fulcrum of the dramatic element of the tale changes and we see why. These moderations, these tones and notes would not hit home as well without contributions from the whole cast be it Peter Outerbridge, who has to be a source of empathy and fear, grief-stricken and terrifying; Sarah Manninen whom runs the gamut from TV playing a role to scared victim to knowing realist; or Peter Da Cunha (whose specific echo is one of the key indicators of the film) who plays a soft-spoken, sunny child who is resigned to a cautious fear, and also ultimately terrified.

Despite whatever superficial similarities this film bears to other more famous works, and I thought of a few others myself, the narrative fabric this film weaves is wholly its one and a great one to look at and get lost in. This is a fantastic horror film that melds a few different subgrenre approaches and should be one you look out for whenever you need another horror fix.

8/10

Advertisements

61 Days of Halloween: The Curse of the Fly (1965)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, as well as a list of previously featured titles, please go here.

The Curse of the Fly (1965)

One thing that becomes clear when your are viewing a series of films in hindsight is when the death knell rang. When you’re in the midst of things occurring extemporaneously, it can be easy to be hopeful and want a course correction that may not necessarily be better than just abandoning ship.

Now, a lay-off in a series is not always a bad thing. A contemporary example would be that the Paranormal Activity series just skipped its first year since the series debuted, and will return in the early part of 2014. However, with the prior film (still being wildly successful in my mind) being six years prior, the changing climate of the nation as the ’60s progressed; a tale like The Fly had to change and wasn’t necessarily going to work.

So in this The Curse of the Fly there is no fly so to speak, the curse is a euphemism. However, the decks are also virtually scrubbed of any connections to the prior to films only bringing in a very old Inspector Charas to fill in blanks. However, the characters who are brought in don’t contribute in a great way: the colleagues in London add a conscience, the servants in the Delambre add an unfortunate racial stereotype (as well as whitewashing) that seems extraneous even for that kind of thing; the love interest distracts from building the new Delambre generation. A generation that’s building the myth of the series by not being as far from the first incident as one may think at first. Or is it? That was murky too.

All this splits focus, however, there’s also the fact that the fly element is removed and what the threat is, is deformity as attempts of transatlantic teleportation are seriously disfiguring test subjects.

There’s less spectacle, less character, less drama, less suspense, less everything in this film such that the end, not only of this installment, but of the original series is a sweet relief. The mythology of this series is great and could easily be picked up and updated again, maybe even in a truly Quebecois version, but sadly this is an unfortunate final chapter to the original series.

61 Days of Halloween: Jug Face (2013)

Introduction

For the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, as well as a list of previously featured titles, please go here.

Jug Face (2013)

This is one of those titles that jumps out at me as one that deserves at the front of the review a reiteration of the fact that any film is merely just the writer to the best of his or her ability relating his/her experience with a film and why. As to whether it is something that will work for you, that’s something you have to parse for yourself based on what you read here and I stress that prior to discussing this film because it is most definitely one where I can understand how it would engender support.

If there’s one thing I unquestionably enjoy about this film is that it refuses to dumb its narrative down. It concerns a teenage girl who becomes pregnant and for many extenuating circumstances feels the need to flee her backwoods home. One of the extenuating circumstances is a communal, pagan-cult-like existence that mandates basically all the residents’ life decisions. The rural location and isolation create a microcosm separated from reality as we know it. What the rules are about life in this place are made clear throughout the course of the film, as well as what transgressions have occurred against said rules. There is nary a bluntly expository word uttered. Things are learned either visually or indirectly.

Where the film bogs down some are in a few places. One such area is when the minutiae is temporarily unclear. The stakes are quite clear early on, which is great, but the impending doom of the characters (in various ways) is also made apparent early. The lack of clarity does muddle a few relationships, plot points and character assignations but that is a minor concern.

The film ends with some mysteries left unsolved, but some of the answers feel like they should pack more of a wallop than they do. The nature of these deities fascinates but, that is due to the visual conveyance of information.

I am being intentionally guarded in my explanation of of my grievances because to over-discuss them would be to give too much away. It’s better to meet this film knowing just the one line synopsis and no more. It’s the kind of world I would not be averse to seeing revisited and expounded upon. This is the type of first installment that could allow for a shorthand to be in place before it’s followed up, and can create something more akin to a companion piece than a sequel.

The performances in the film, namely by the protagonist Lauren Ashley Carter, are impressive and make the film worth viewing. If you are curious to see the film and form your own opinion it is available to stream on Amazon Instant Video (free to Prime Members).

5/10