Havenhurst (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

Director: Andrew C. Erin
Writers: Andrew C. Erin, Daniel Farrands
Stars: Julie Benz, Belle Shouse, Josh Stamberg

Plot:  A troubled young woman takes up residence in a gothic apartment building where she must confront a terrifying evil.
Running Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics  30%    Audience 20%

Why I watched it: I’m a horror fan and this seemed to be in my wheelhouse.
Random Thoughts: I’m not the biggest Julie Benz fan, now to be fair I think it was her character in Dexter that bothered me, she’s a good actress but it’s hard for me to forgive her.  This is a small budget horror film, I seem to be watching a lot of these lately.  Going in I thought this would be a decent haunted house/apartment story.

What I liked: The story is straight forward, the apartment building kind of works as a halfway house, it’s where recovering addicts go to start their life again and it seems if you go back to your old ways something nasty happens to you.  Decent set up, Julie Benz is the lead and she’s a recovering alcoholic who had an accident that lead to her daughter’s death. Benz is good here, subtle not over the top and showing a strength and resolve. In a very movie cliche plot point she moves into an apartment where her friend lived and guess what she’s disappeared, and now Benz’s character feels something is not right.

At first glance this seems like a ghost story, vengeful  spirits punishing bad people. There is a twist and I honestly didn’t see coming not saying it works but I’ll give them credit for doing something a bit different.  As I mentioned this is a small budget film so we’re not working with a lot here, the mood is good and I did like Josh Stamberg as a cop friend of Benz who does some poking around, like the fact that he believes her and tries to help.  The apartment building and all the creepy trap doors and secret rooms is very creepy and does work to build up the tension and dread.

What I Didn’t Like:  I’m the first one to say that I like short genre films, don’t go past 90 minutes unless you have to but here’s a case where the 80 minutes is too short we’re messing some key bits, bits that would help to put some texture and some depth into the story.  I also feel that they waste too much time on the cliched parts and should have given us more backstory of Benz’s character, we never find out about her husband, how her and the cop character got to be friends, sure we see him at her accident but that’s it.  If you watch this movie to see Danielle Harris, who is a scream queen for genre fans, don’t waste your time her part is barely a cameo.  The role is so slight and so small I think it was a mistake to put a known actor in the role.

Some the acting is not great, the gilr that Benz befriends is not great, I don’t like picking on younger actors but she’s not very good in a key role.  Fionnula Flanagan has played this role too many times before so as soon as we see her we know what she is.  She’s not bad but really it’s a stock character.  The twist i mentioned doesn’t fully work for me, the film kind of jumps horror sub-genres and the one they jumped to doesn’t work that well.  I also think this films feels like stuff is money which means I think they ran out of money or they didn’t spend their money wisely cause I think part of this worked but I think you needed a veteran genre director to make this click.  The ending doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s interesting I’ve seen a few horror films in a row where they’re aiming for depressing endings or really open endings.

Final Thoughts: I kind of half way liked it, it had promise and some of it was a bit different and I liked we had an adult women and not a teenager in the lead role.

Rating: 5/10

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