Vincenzo Natali is the guy behind the first Cube film, a somewhat troubled but fun movie that got by on a strong and enigmatic concept. I lost track of him ever since (though I did see his entry in Paris, Je t'Aime), but when I came across Haunter I was more than eager to give him a second chance. While still not a film that lives up to its true potential, Haunter is a pretty atmospheric trip down Natali's eerie visions and more than confirms Natali's talent.
Haunter is a pretty tough sell though. While it has many characteristics of a horror film (and thanks to its marketing it will undoubtedly draw large horror crowds), it's actually a dark, moody mystery that isn't really out to scare. Instead Natali unravels a tight and morbid secret that involves hauntings and serial killers embedded in a Groundhog Day-like loop. Little by little he drops hints and unveils smaller mysteries that all lead up to the big revelation.
Natali's Haunter is a visually pleasing film. While clearly not a big budget affair, he makes the most of his money with moody lighting, smart play of shadows and strong use of color. The soundtrack too is aptly used to further enhance the atmosphere. It sets the perfect mood for the story to unravel. Sadly the lead actress takes away from that. Abigail Breslin never really seems to get the hang of her character and comes off as a weak lead. McHattie shines as the film's villain, but he simply lacks screen time to make up for the lead's poor performance.
It's a shame because Natali does a great job setting everything up. The atmosphere is there, the plot is tight enough and opens itself up at the right times. Look past the lead actress and you have a neat little mystery.