Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror/thriller HAVENHURST by writer/director Andrew C. Erin. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
A recovering addict takes up residence in a Gothic apartment building and notices that tenants keep disappearing.
I am not going to lie, I absolutely loved the conceit of this feature as it kept hinting towards a real life serial killer. Each little tidbit they dropped just made me want to spend more time roaming the halls of this apartment building in an attempt to discover its dark history. When the final reveal came about, it left me wanting to learn more about the characters involved and their motivations.
The agenda of the various characters is, to me, this film’s weakest link. While our lead’s reasoning was well developed, the antagonist’s inclinations were not nearly as clear. Sure, it makes sense in the more generalized way, but why it mattered enough to start killing people is a lot murkier. In fact, one of the biggest parts of the denouement hings so firmly upon the idea of justified killing that it left me scratching my head as to why a certain character thought it was acceptable.
While the individual motivations were not always clear, the actors themselves seemed perfectly suited to their roles. The standout is Julie Benz whose portrayal has just enough tics to bring a beautiful sadness to her character. The pathos is reinforced when we see her channeling the obsessive side of addiction into discovering why her friend disappeared.
The apartment building itself even manages to take on a sort of personality as the Gothic design evokes feelings of the old world tinged with darkness. The muted colors gave the sets a forbidding look that clearly signaled something was not quite right. As the true nature of the building comes to light, and the gears come into play, it creates the idea that the building itself is an uncaring machine that takes no notice of the ants it crushes.
Now the kills themselves are not for the faint of heart as plenty of blood and viscera is shown off. I am not sure if it was just my imagination, but I felt as if the blood has a very bright look to it that contrasted with the otherwise dim surroundings. While I am not huge on gore, it felt perfectly in place here as it showed the disparity between the building and the human residents.
Before I wrap up, I feel I should take a moment to talk about the scare tactics used in this movie. To be honest, I was a little disappointed that nearly every creepy moment or sudden movement was highlighted by the music suddenly jumping to a high pitched screech. I know this is an often used tactic to get the audience to jump, but here it seemed entirely unnecessary as the majority of these moments were false scares. Also, given the obvious age of the building, I feel as if some more creaking floorboards, shuffling of feet, or ambient noises should have been used to ratchet up the tension.
All in all, this is a fantastic concept backed up by a great performance from Julie Benz. While there might have been some issues with motivations or the scares, the building itself remains imposing and wonderful to see. Fans of “American Horror Story: Hotel” (2015) or SAW (2004) should enjoy this feature.
HAVENHURST opens this Friday, February 10th in Los Angeles and VOD
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