You ever outsmart yourself? You come up with an idea, be it for work, personal reasons, school assignment, whatever — an idea that transcends the norm, and you put it into action, perhaps somewhat proud of your own cleverness and confident that everyone will be blown away by it…and then either nobody notices, or no one gets it. You came up with a brilliant proposal at work, only for your sales team to not be at all familiar with the client and drop the ball with their ignorance of the project parameters….you prepared a delicious Indian dish using authentic ingredients, and your guests didn’t know the difference between coriander and curry…you get the picture? I think sometimes filmmakers fall into this trap — it’s not that they make bad flicks, but they either miss opportunities or leave the audience scratching their heads over what they’ve just seen. I’m certainly not insulting anyone’s intelligence here; I myself have concluded a lot of flicks and sat there as the credits rolled with that constipated expression, trying to ponder just what the hell happened. Now I’m not talking about movies like Jacob’s Ladder, Prince of Darkness, or even the recent Phantasm: Ravager, where it was the intent of the filmmaker to leave their endings open to interpretation — I mean films where a major plot point is something that your target audience might not be as familiar with as you’d like.
Andrew C. Erin’s Havenhurst just may fall into this a bit. I’m not sure how I can illustrate that to you Fellow Fans and still be spoiler-free, but I’ll give it the ol’ college try…
Jackie is a recovering alcoholic, finally getting out of rehab and having cleaned up her life after the horrible tragedy of being responsible for her own daughter’s death with her drinking and driving. Having very little in her life to hold onto, she treasures the friendship of Danielle, but is very disturbed that (after leaving the rehab center some time earlier) Danielle seems to have disappeared. Jackie goes to the place where her friend was last seen, an old but elegant apartment building called Havenhurst, and accepts an apartment there as well (the very same apartment that Danielle had lived in, she finds).
Mrs. Mudgett, the also old but elegant owner of the building, runs Havenhurst as a kind of halfway house for recovering addicts, and has a very simple set of rules — stay clean, and you can live in the gorgeous building indefinitely; fall back on your old ways, however, you’ll be quickly evicted. Taking advantage of the beautiful apartment to rebuild her life while at the same time trying to find out what happened to her friend, Jackie experiences a lot of strange goings-on in the building, and as other tenants are “evicted”, she comes to the conclusion that something horrific may be going on, and is willing to put her new life on the line to find the truth…
This film came out of the box seeming supernatural in it’s nature — we the audience are privy to what happens to Danielle in the introduction to the film, and it’s most unpleasant, and very seemingly paranormal. However, one finds that everything is not what it seems, and clues to what is really going on are peppered in early on — however, going back to what I said in my introduction, I’m not sure if everyone might catch on to the clues, as they involve things that may or may not be well-known to all viewers. The writing is clever, the setting is remarkable (reminiscent, as it has been said, of Rosemary’s Baby and The Sentinel ), and the camera setups and sequences of suspense and terror are well-done (and pretty damned harrowing, at times). I can see, however, where some viewers might not really get what’s going on — of course, a good filmmaker doesn’t want you to know what’s going on until the reveal, but in this case, even after the reveal I fear a large chunk of the audience still might not understand the full gravity of the tale. Danielle Harris’ time on screen is short, but shows her usual skillful and convincing acumen, and Julie Benz acts the hell out of her role, be it as the troubled addict, the grieving, guilt-ridden mother, or the terrified but steadfast friend searching for the truth — that said, however, the script has her making a decision that just really didn’t make sense, and seemed so out-of-character that it really pushed me out for a bit.
It’s not a bad movie — as stated, it’s written, shot, and acted very well, and I don’t feel like I wasted my time with it. It just seems like there were some missed opportunities with the background of the story that could have been better explained or otherwise expounded upon, perhaps introducing viewers that aren’t as familiar with those clues that I mentioned to an all-too-real chapter of horror in our history, and taking a movie from being merely entertaining to more thought-provoking.
Of course, a lot of folks just want their horror to be horror, and hey — that’s fine too. This, as always, is simply…
…my two cents worth.
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