Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Haunts (1977)

The use of unreliable narrators always makes me wary of a work of fiction - especially in film.  Sure, they can be used in clever and creative ways when employed by an expert (Kurosawa's Rashomon comes to mind), but more often than not they're a sign that the writer(s) weren't up to the task of creating mystery by honest means, and must instead resort to lying to the audience.

Which makes it doubly disappointing that this film goes the unreliable narrator route, because for the first hour or so it does create mystery, and everything we see is internally consistent.  Creepy and weird and a little bit "off", perhaps, but consistent.  But when they unveil the unreliability of - well, pretty much everything we've seen - that's all swept away.  I mean that both literally, in that we're flat out told that many events we saw simply did not occur, and thematically, in that the kind of story we're being told is fundamentally changed by the revelation.  And alas, not changed for the better.

The film Haunts appears to be for much of its length is more or less your standard 'masked killer stalks female protagonist while occasionally murdering other people' thing, though being released as it was before Halloween or Friday the 13th it does not conform to the slasher stereotypes.  Our female protagonist is in her 40s, for instance, rather than a nubile teenager, and the killer lacks the "style" (for want of a better word) of a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees.  There's no distinctive costume, no signature weapon, no carefully orchestrated kill zones.  It's just a guy with a knife and a balaclava.

But like I said, it turns out that's not what this film is about after all.  What it is actually about is a far murkier question to answer, and frankly it doesn't give you enough reason to care.

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