Stars: Julie Benz, Danielle Harris, Fionnula Flannagan, Belle Shouse, Josh Stamberg, Toby Huss, Jennifer Blanc, Matt Lasky, Douglas Tait | Written by Andrew C. Erin, Daniel Farrands | Directed by Andrew C. Erin
Jackie (Benz), a troubled young woman struggling with addiction, is released from rehab and given a second chance with a new job and a furnished apartment at Havenhurst. Guilt-ridden over the loss of her 8-year-old daughter, Jackie is quickly drawn into the mysteries of Havenhurst, in particular the disappearance of apartment 1006′s previous lost soul, a young woman (Harris) she befriended in rehab who vanished without a trace. Aided by a hardened New York police detective (Stamberg) and a lonely foster child (Shouse) who lives under the sadistic shadow of her caretakers, Jackie must not only battle her inner demons… but the very real ones that live within the walls of Havenhurst.
Co-writer Daniel Farrands will, at least in my eyes, always be remembered as the man behind the much-beleaguered Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers – the 1995 entry into the Halloween franchise that – much like its slasher-movie brethren Jason Goes to Hell – tried to bring a new mythos to the evil that is Michael Myers. Sadly, the film is most notable these days as the leading man debut of Paul Rudd, who appeared in the film fresh off his scene-stealing role in Clueless… Farrands is also one of the crew behind the much-delayed (it was originally scheduled for release back in January 2015!) franchise entry Amityville: The Awakening. I say this only because it seems Farrands has ZERO luck when it comes to franchises, yet based off his work here he really knows how to craft a fantastic, and more importantly, scary movie…
Havenhurst is a film of two halves, literally. Initially set up as something akin to a haunted house movie, complete with bodies being thrown around by invisible forces and tenants running fearfully from things or people that just aren’t there. The film finally reveals its true self halfway through, as the parents of young innocent Sarah – a girl who seemingly knows more about what’s happening in Havenhurst than any of the adults – are “taken” by the very building in which they live. You see it turns out the building is not just a halfway house for troubled people, but also one giant Saw-like clockwork contraption: with moving walls, hidden doors, and killer traps!
It’s a brilliant, truly inspired, twist that elevates Havenhurst from a run-of-the-mill ghost story into a tense and terrifying terror tale that, shocker, taps into real-world terrors of the past (to say more would spoil the major plot twist within) giving the film a depth that you don’t expect from genre cinema these days.
It’s not just the story that dupes the audience into a false sense of knowing either. The setting of Havenhurst, a building with long maze-like corridors, and Victorian-era decoration would suggest that there’s spooky things going on rather than the man-made terrors that are really taking place. And Director Andrew C. Erin , takes it a step further filming the entire movie as if it were a haunted house flick too: muted tones, good use of darkness and shadow, and general mise-en-scene that screams “ghost story”.
But this is NOT a ghost story, this is something much more. Something darker and more twisted. A story that sees the residents of Havenhurst “fed” to the building, should they not live up to the promise they signed up to when they moved in. Well I say fed to the building, but the monster that terrorises the tenants is all-too human. Well Fionnula Flannagan, as the psychotic matriarch of the killer familt may be human but her son? Less so. Yes, this films albino-esque crawlspace hiding villain has more in common with the monsterous torturer of Federico Zampaglione’s Shadow than anything human.
With a downbeat ending that caps off the terrifying nature of the characters within, Havenhurst is one of the best examples of the genre I’ve seen in months. Unmissable.
Havenhurst is released in eight US cities today, with a simultaneous nationwide launch on VOD. No word on a UK debut, but a film this good shouldn’t find difficulty getting released here very soon.