“I thought I told you to mind your own business. You are a Busy Betty. And I don’t like Busy Betties.”
–The Pale Man
There’s a memorable scene in the first ‘Matrix’ film where Morpheus gives Neo the choice of taking the blue pill, which would mean that he could return to his everyday “life” free of the uncertainty that has become plagued him of late.
Or he could take the blue pill, and have the thin veneer that hides the true nature of reality removed, to finally exist the the world of the real.
It’s a choice Lisa (Abigail Breslin) is denied as she’s thrust into a battle with a demonic entity in Vincenzo Natali’s “Haunter,” the followup to “Splice.” While that latter film revolved around the dangers of genetic engineering, his latest is somewhat smaller, and plays like a more sinister version of Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day” as Lisa–for reasons unknown to her–ends up repeating the same ordinary day over and over again, a fact that her parents and little brother seem oblivious to.
What most surprised me about “Haunter” is how it harkens back to more family-friendly scare films. And speaking of scares, they’re present, though primarily atmospheric, and there’s no gore to speak of.
Though the movie has an ace up it’s sleeve: Stephen McHattie (“Pontypool,” XIII: The Series” among many others) who’s ability to look sinister with seemingly no effort at all is so potent that it’s almost a superpower.
Natali has a tendency in this film to telegraph its themes more often than I would like–you’ll know what I mean when you see it–but that’s just a small distraction in what is a very smart, engaging horror thriller.