Directed by Andrew C. Erin.
Starring Julie Benz, Belle Shouse, Josh Stamberg, Danielle Harris and Fionnula Flanagan.
Recovering alcoholic Jackie moves into the ominous Havenhurst building in an attempt to figure what happened to her friend Danielle who has suddenly gone missing. The Havenhurst building is advertised as a place from which people can confront their problems and finally vanquish them from their lives, but as many residents have found out – and soon will Jackie – there is a severe punishment in store for those who slide back into their destructive past habits.
Another day another horror film for me to review. Seriously I didn’t plan on being the “horror guy”, it just sort of happened. Anyways enough stalling, let’s talk about the subject of today’s review the house of horrors flick Havenhurst.
Julie Benz (perhaps best known as Rita from TV’s Dexter) leads the cast as Jackie, a recovering alcoholic who checks into Havenhurst to solve the mystery of her friend’s disappearance. Benz is serviceable in the lead and her character’s past certainly adds a somewhat interesting layer to her story. However, Benz could have easily done a better job with the part, with her performance coming across as uninterested at times, even when spooky stuff starts to happen, and it’s disappointing to see her this way because we know she can do a lot better.
The supporting cast is also fine with Belle Shouse doing a fine job as young Sarah who becomes Jackie’s sidekick for the film. Fionnula Flanagan also does a fine job as the owner of Havenhurst, Ethel Mudgett, with Flanagan nailing the sinister but polite old lady character trope, even if it is a bit clichéd.
Props really should be given the stunt performers of the film who provide some of the film’s best moments of excitement, with them being tossed around rooms, smashing into walls or having limbs set on fire, with all of it looking suitably painful and brutal. It’s not a big part of the film, but I couldn’t help be impressed by their work.
The visualsare solid with everything being well shot and well lit to convey the right sort of mood for a film like this, although the camerawork is somewhat uninventive and could have done with a bit more flair, but this is just nitpicking I’ll admit. The set design is impressive, though, with the sort of clockwork trap way that the rooms in the building are making for some creative trapdoor kills and jump scares.
The story of the film is nothing particularly special, although it’s not a haunted house film as some of the advertising for the film would suggest. Instead, it’s more akin to Saw with the building essentially being one giant trap, and The Shining with it being an eerie and seemingly empty building from which there is little hope of escape and terror lurking around every corner.
Also, there is somewhat of a rather clichéd twist that I managed to predict very early on, but I’ll not spoil it in case anyone wants to watch. All I’ll say keep in mind a brief scene in which Jackie looks at an old black and white photograph of a man with a moustache and bowler hat. If you know who the man in the photo is then you should be able to figure out the twist as to what Havenhurst really is.
I must confess something dear readers; this review has been quite difficult to write. I should stress that this is not because I found the film to be awful or horrifically bad in any sense, as you can see from my words above everything about the film is serviceable and does exactly what it sets out to do.
However, it’s just all so very generic and full of stuff that we’ve seen before, and it really pains me to say that, because I do like the idea behind the story and I’ll admit that it has its good moments with a decent third act and a brisk pace that doesn’t drag for the most part. But, I just think that all in all the film could have been executed better with maybe a bit more money or a quick script polish.
I’ll admit that I’ve seen far worse horror films, but I’ve seen far better, and Havenhurst is really just another rather unremarkable house of horrors flick.
Check it out if you’re curious and you never know you might find you enjoy it more than I did.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★