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Gavin Schmitt

Film Review: "Havenhurst" (2016)

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A troubled young woman takes up residence in a Gothic apartment building where she must confront a terrifying evil.

Director Andrew C. Erin (Embrace of the Vampire) brings us this film from a screenplay co-written with Daniel Farrands (Amityville: The Awakening). We also get music from tomandandy (Mothman Prophecies, The Strangers and a couple Resident Evil films), some of the best in the business. Farrands may be best known for writing "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" or for being involved in various documentaries about 1980s film franchises. He would appear to love that 1980s slasher feel, and (if so) it definitely comes through here. Although ostensibly a haunted house story, this is really a slasher at heart.

The film opens with a pulse-pounding score, superior gore effects and a dazzling cameo from horror goddess Danielle Harris. Unfortunately only a cameo rather than anything approaching a "supporting" role, but the rest of the cast is just great. We have powerful acting from Julie Benz (Dexter, Buffy, Two Evil Eyes), and an evil maternal instinct from Fionnula Flanagan (The Others, Trash Fire).

What sells the film more than anything is the cinematography, as the colorization is rich, and provides a nice palette against which to tell a moving story. The apartment offers up the best possible use of space -- sometimes overly spacial and intricately ornate, sometimes claustrophobic, and with a few nods to other horror classics such as "The Shining" and even "Psycho". The exterior aerial shots look great, and it left me wondering if this is a real building or if some crafty CGI is used.

In recent years, public discourse was concerned about the so-called surveillance state, and those fears come to life here. We even have secrets behind the walls (reminiscent of "Crawlspace") and a plot twist that ties this (fictional) film to the upcoming (factual) "Devil in the White City". Although this story of murder and disappearance could be in any era, this surveillance aspect makes it especially timely, even if not intended by the writers.

I highly recommend "Havenhurst". Though it seems to have been pushed back a year, it will be an early strong contender for great horror films of 2017. The film should be available widely starting on February 10, 2017.

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