Haunter (2013) This ghost story with a twist stars Abigail Breslin as Lisa, a teenage girl stuck in an interminable loop. She keeps experiencing the same day over and over, repeating the eve of her 16th birthday. The rest of her family remains oblivious to the fact that she continually approaches but never reaches that milestone. Meanwhile, Lisa endeavors to pick up something new about her situation, hoping to break the cycle and escape this existential prison. Vincenzo Natali’s supernatural thriller borrows liberally from such disparate sources as Groundhog Day, The Others, and Nightmare on Elm Street, but somehow manages to be original in its execution. Although we’re aware of Lisa’s fate early in the film, our knowledge doesn’t diminish the film’s pervasive sense of dread and claustrophobic feel.
Rating: *** ½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Netflix Streaming
Dead End (2003) This supernatural suspense film plays a bit like an overwrought Twilight Zone episode, with characters on a road trip to nowhere. On a Christmas Eve drive to visit the in-laws, the Harrington family (led by Ray Wise) takes a detour, and ends up on a road in the middle of an endless forest. They encounter a woman in white and an old hearse, which seem linked to their destiny. Writer/directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa maintain an unsettling tone, and have a good eye for visuals, with some nice overhead shots that convey the family’s isolation. Unfortunately, the film is hampered by unlikable characters (who have an annoying tendency to get out of the car and stand around in the middle of the street) and a predictable story.
Rating: ** ½. Available on DVD and Netflix Streaming
Vamp (1986) Director/co-writer Richard Wenk’s vampire comedy is all style, with little substance. A couple of clueless fraternity pledges played by Chris Makepeace and Robert Rusler go to a seedy, out of the way club in an attempt to hire a stripper (wouldn’t it have been easier to use the yellow pages for that sort of thing?), but the exotic dancers are more than they seem to be. This bit of ‘80s fluff also features Gedde Watanabe as an obnoxious college student who’s just along for the ride. By far, the best part of the movie is Grace Jones as the enigmatic head mistress of the establishment. Jones creates a true presence with her regal demeanor, painted skin and mysterious eyes, but her character is underdeveloped. Vamp isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation suggests, but it’s not particularly good either.
Rating: ** ½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Netflix Streaming
The Dunwich Horror (1970) On paper, at least, The Dunwich Horror sounds exciting, based on a H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name. Dean Stockwell stars as disturbed recluse Wilbur Whateley, a young man in an old house with a terrible secret behind a locked door. He courts university library worker Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee), but it’s all part of his scheme to get his hands on an ancient book of evil, the Necronomicon, and perform a ritual that will bring back the Old Ones. Too bad the movie’s a snoozer. The results feel like a short film stretched to feature length, padded with multiple sequences tinted in psychedelic colors (a product of its time). If you stay awake long enough for the climax, you might just catch a glimpse of an unconvincing rubber tentacle monster, but blink and you’ll miss it. For die-hard Lovecraft devotees only.
Rating: **. Available on DVD and Netflix Streaming