Day 19: Netflix Roulette – Havenhurst

I watched this movie in two sittings. As such, I learned about George Romero’s passing right in the middle of this film. Part of me wanted to just ditch it (more on why in a bit) and watch every single Romero movie in one sitting. In the end, I figured since I had already committed forty minutes of my life to this thing, I might as well see it through and, while I can’t really recommend Havenhurst, I can say that I am glad I saw it through (well, glad may be overly generous… how about, fine… I am fine that I saw it through… or maybe not angry… I am not angry that I saw it through). While the ending doesn’t make up for the issues this film creates, it does at least do something interesting, which is saying something, since the biggest issue this movie is trying to deal with is the utter boring and unoriginal tone is create from the jump.

I now realize that I’m somehow halfway through my write up… therefore, let me step back and provide a quick summary. Havenhurst is the story of a woman (played by Dexter and Buffy/Angel alum Julie Benz) who, after leaving an in-patient alcohol addiction program, moves into an apartment complex run by a noisy and strict landlady who “evicts” any tenant who breaks the rules… a modicum of chaos ensues. The first hour of this movie (note that this movie is well under ninety minutes) is a struggle to get through. Before starting, I had a triple-shot latte and I was still struggling to stay awake. In fact, I spent most of the first two-thirds actively trying not to check my phone. I somehow managed (I am of the belief that any movie I write-up for this blog deserves at least my full attention). The movie hits on nearly every horror movie cliché (for example, the first person to “get it” waits nearly thirty seconds for the elevator doors to close while being chased by something… and all of this is to set up a jump scare that is neither scary nor makes the viewer jump (and trust me, I should know… I have an exaggerated startle response)). I could sit here and list the sheer number of clichés (seriously, I don’t need to hear the protagonist talk to herself… I am capable to determining motivation), but why should I make you as bored as I was. The problem is that when a movie is this meandering and boring I, as a viewer, start to focus on what else is going on and the (numerous) cracks begin to show. For example, I couldn’t get over the fact that the hallways of the apartment complex are decorated like a hotel… it just kept taking me out of it and made me wonder where it was shot. Here’s another quick note: ratcheting down the white balance to create artificial darkness is not a tonal choice, it just seems strange. This issue is perhaps most glaring when the thing doing all of the killing is on screen. They never really show the thing in full light… and, I’m sure if you asked the filmmaker (writer/director Andrew C. Erin), he would tell you that it was a deliberate choice to increase the tension… however, I couldn’t help thinking it was more that the make-up and effects simply didn’t work the way he wanted them to. This seems more evident when you start to notice the fake shadows put in as after-effects to obscure the thing’s face.

Then there’s the plotting. I don’t know how a film this lumbering can also feel rushed. It may have something to do with the fact that the characters in the apartment complex have no pre-existing relationships and very little time is spent developing them. I’m not sure what could have been done here to help, but I know for sure that making the movie longer is not the answer. Plus, the filmmaker seems to abandon plot points and characters and bring them back as if he suddenly remembered them. This honestly feels like he filmed his first draft.

Okay… that last statement felt a bit mean, so, I don’t want to end on that note. I will say that once the lore behind the horror is revealed my interest was a bit piqued. I won’t say exactly what this entailed as to avoid spoilers (though, please don’t watch this movie). What I will say though is that you need to be aware of the specific lore before starting this movie because the filmmakers and characters talked about the lore and history in a way that makes it seem like it’s common knowledge, which I don’t think it is. It makes me want to start a poll where I walk around and ask random people on the street “have you ever heard of ____?” (again, trying to avoid spoilers). Man, I really thought I was going to be positive there. Seriously, this time I will be. The one shining note in this film is that the ending does something interesting. I know that sounds like faint praise (mostly because it is)… but, after struggling through this movie for nearly eighty minutes it was nice to have something interesting happen… oh well, so much for being positive.

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