What we have here seems to be a mash up of Groundhog Day, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Ghost. Some less obvious influences might be Watcher in the Woods and even a bit of Jacob's Ladder. Other reviewers also mention The Sixth Sense and The Others, which would sound downright spoilery, but it's actually pretty obvious and quickly established that the protagonist in Haunter is already dead, so no need to feel cheated in that respect.
I didn't expect much from this movie, particularly as I'm put off by movies or TV shows with children or teens as lead characters (note: I didn't care much for teens when I was teen), but the first thing this movie did right was not starting off with the usual signature of a bad movie; i.e. with a bunch of gratuitous noise, bad generic rock music, or kicking off with an immediate scene of gore and screams. No, this movie started off more like a high quality made-for-TV movie (maybe similar to, but a cut above the Fear Itself or Masters of Horror series') with haunting music over the opening credits that segued into a very mundane scene of the teen heroine doing laundry.
Yet, this movie still could have failed into mediocrity or worse in many ways, and that's not to say this film is exceptional — definitely not great — but it just kept stubbornly holding its head above water when you didn't expect it to. For example, Haunter has a lot of typical horror movie scares that are easily anticipated: the door suddenly slamming shut, the eerie sound effects, the other-worldly voices, etc. Yet, even though none of these scenes were remotely scary, they were pulled off in a way that didn't make me groan from predictability; the spooks and effects, unoriginal as they might have been, were applied with care and quality, for lack of a better analysis. That aspect is also one of the reasons I would suggest this movie to people who like horror, but have a lower threshold for the scares (but not too low).
One of the cons of this movie is that it definitely seemed to run too long. After the fact, I was surprised to see that it only runs at 97 minutes, but it felt closer to two hours. I think one of the other reasons I was able to stick with it is because the Siousxie and the Banshees t-shirt wearing lead was smartly written and well-acted. One of the quickest ways for me to lose patience with a horror movie is to have the main characters go down the path of cliche bad decision making, but to my relief, that's not to be found in Haunter. It's also kinda cool how certain shots are setup to a subtle, but great effect, when the ghostly lead, Lisa Johnson, is wearing the Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt.
Haunter won't scare horror veterans, and that alone might put off a lot of that kind of audience, but others like myself, who simply like a good ghost story and who can appreciate a strong lead with good decision making, might find aspects of this movie refreshing and highly watchable.
The Not so Much
You're Next (2013)
Unlike Haunter, You're Next had quite a bit more visibility and distribution (as best as I know) upon its release last year. Directed by Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, V/H/S series), You're Next is a slasher/home invasion movie with a cast of which several members are also filmmakers, most notably Ti West. As much as I don't care for slasher movies, I wanted to give this one a chance because I somehow got it in my head that the family being attacked in this movie was able to pull together and turn the tables. Well, not quite...
Short and sweet of it:
- Excellent soundtrack. Kind of a mix of styles, taken from different eras of other slasher movies. Some '80s-style creepy synth and another style or two that I can't remember adequately at the moment.
- Sharni Vinson as the female lead. This movie has cliche bad decision making up the rear, but Sharni's character does alright and somehow just seems to get more attractive the more she's kicking ass.
- Overall acting, direction, and sound effects are fine.
-It's a slasher movie. I don't care much for slasher movies with the bad decision making, etc.
And the Other
The Abominable Snowman (1957)
This one is actually lined up next in my DVD queue, so no thoughts on it yet, except that I've been meaning to get to it for maybe a year or two at this point and who wouldn't want to see a 1950s mix of British botanists, crass Americans, and calamity?
In this chillingly atmospheric tale, British botanist John Rollason (Peter Cushing) joins crass American showman Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) and his exploration team on a dangerous expedition into the Himalayas to search for the mythical yeti. But calamity begins to strike members of the group — one by one — shortly after they reach the mountaintop.