DIRECTOR Vincenzo Natali WRITER Brian King STARS Abigail Breslin; Peter Outerbridge; Michelle Nolden
New works from Vincenzo Natali are always to be eagerly anticipated, and Haunter, a delightful deconstruction of the traditional ghost story, does not disappoint. As a one-location tale that requires a monotony from the majority of its characters, it is certainly ambitious, and thus, reliance on a smart screenplay is paramount. Writer Brian King does not disappoint, conjuring a wonderfully tight-knit, metaphysical framework that may require more than one viewing to fully appreciate.
An initial assumed teenage listlessness from Lisa soon gives way to the realisation that her complaint is literal; it really is the same, humdrum day, over and over again, the nuclear family at the heart of this haunted-house story trapped in routine. The monotony of this repetition requires a strong lead performance against the imposed limits of the supporting roles, and Abigail Breslin is superb, transitioning apathy through apprehension to fear in a believable, empathetic sense.
Some beautiful cinematography complements this graduation. Light is used so effectively it is a minor character in itself; bright and warm to emphasise what ought to be the safety of a family home, and dark — yet never forgetting to gently bleed and blend, underlining the balance —to reflect intrusion into this familiar space.
In fact the film as a whole showcases a great deal of devil in its detail. The contrast of primary colour against otherwise neutral shades is used to good effect, while the continual focus on Lisa’s pupils, as the sole character seeing the predicament the family is in, is a pleasing touch both in style and reference. And, a pointedly significant shot of the mother’s hand unlocking the front door, allowing the antagonist in over the threshold, is a lovely little nod to that most traditional of tropes.
Saying that, it is not perfect. Clearly there is a sociological comment here on the impact of a father’s changing behaviour on an otherwise stable family, but the reliance on dinner-table scenes to make this statement is a tad amateurish. Also, the climax is undeniably disappointing, the build-up promising much bigger. But these are minor quibbles, Haunter coming highly recommended.