Havenhurst is a horror film. I know this because it said so on the Wiki page. The story, such as it is: a woman leaving rehab finds an apartment in a classic well-heeled but somehow unsettling halfway house where unusual events are occurring.
Someone who had never before seen a “scary house” movie might enjoy this one because it’s lifted ideas from so many good films. It starts off beggaring the suspension of disbelief as we are asked to accept that busted a*s broke alcoholics and drug addicts are living in this gorgeous neo-gothic apartment within sight of the Chrysler building in Manhattan. The thought of paying the rent will make your flesh crawl.
The only real horror of Havenhurst is that someone got this much budget for a film without a script.
This feels like a story arrived at over a night of drinking in a conversation punctuated with “Oh, I know and then…” resulting in a toxic impenetrable blend of severed bits of numerous foundational horror films. It’s a narrative and visual jumble of maybe something Stanley Kubrick decided against plus Nothing But Trouble (minus the Digital Underground) with a little Sweeney Todd and Hellraiser mixed in. There’s a bit of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left peeking around the corner. I think I saw Norman Bates checking his iPhone in the background.
The building is beautiful, at least what you can see of it around the murky haze of the grainy cinematography and poor lighting. The washed out hospital green palette of the interiors is cribbed straight from The Matrix as is the visual effect of the surreptitious sneaky cams.
Julie Benz was wonderful as Darla the vampire in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and she was also impressive as Rita in Dexter but she doesn’t get a chance to do much here as Jackie except fulfill her destiny walking through video game levels as the “woman in trouble making bad decisions” trope.
All the characters are thin and disposable. There’s an arch house mistress, Eleanor Mudgett, (Fionnula Flanagan) who has just got to be up to something. There’s the skulking around of the preternaturally strong creepazoid Cenobite/Borg poser. A hardboiled private Investigator shows up right on time. Also right on schedule of course, tiringly, inevitably, there’s a creepy kid.
The continual introduction of new narrative elements instead of resolving any of the existing threads is maddening. The production value of the film is not terrible, it’s a solid C+ which makes the overall incomprehensibility the more puzzling. It fails as horror. It fails as gore porn. The name actors are badly underutilized. The fact that no character is more than a cardboard cutout means you will actually be pleased when the nondescript evil begins to dispatch them. You’ll find yourself rooting for team evil.
I kept hoping something wryly disruptive would surface to spin it like Cabin in The Woods and thus save it from circling the drain but alas no such luck. You’ll never get the 80 minutes back.
Havenhurst (2016) Directed by Andrew C. Erin. Written by Andrew C. Erin, Daniel Farrands. Starring Julie Benz, Fionnula Flanagan.
2 out of 10