Thursday, March 20, 2014

a place you used to crawl underneath

The scripty font seems unjustified for a horror film. The butterfly seems pretentious. But, the people projected into the jars on the shelves is a nice visual and the production value already seems pretty good...

Oh, I should explain. I'm watching Haunter, a horror film with a time loop. Abigail Breslin stars. And those were my initial impressions. And SPOILERS will be coming.

When your little brother's imaginary friend--who he insists is not imaginary--leaves things in your room, you should be more freaked out.

By the way... "Lisa Johnson! Me and Edgar found the pirate treasure. Meet us in the secret cave." That walkie talkie bit has nothing on Sonny and Cher.

Not sure if this is awesome or really sad--definitely too on-the-nose. A bit of a dialogue between Lisa (Breslin) and her mother:

Mother: something something where do you want to go for dinner for your birthday tomorrow?

Lisa: Ask me tomorrow.

Mother: I hope we get there... because the car's having trouble.

Also this, regarding laundry: "I don't think it's possible for our clothes to wear out, ever."

Keep in mind: time loop... though, no the movie has not indicated it yet. Of course, the house is surrounding by a slightly unrealistic fog, a little like The Others. And, father character just mentioned the phones are out. Nope, nothing weird gonna happen to this family.

Lisa plays the clarinet--she is already part way to being Rita's perfect guy.

Rubik's Cube to solve... loop marker? Missing laundry, and Lisa already knows something's up. Same meals, same broken down car, and "there is no school, there is no work." And, "it's pretty frustrating" always being the day before she turns 16. Danny Rubin might appreciate this film, since his original script for Groundhog Day started in medias res like this.

Lisa recites dialogue from the TV show her family watches. Cut to next morning, she's woken up by her brother's (or rather, his imaginary friend's) toy again.

Lisa still goes down to do the laundry when her mother tells her. I guess being limited to a house makes a hedonistic stage fairly impossible. Weird noises this time in the basement. She probably shouldn't check it out, though, or she might learn that Phil Connors is wrong when he says "Anything different is good."

Reagan on the TV and a wall-mounted rotary-dial phone. It's worse than I thought. She's trapped in the 1980s.

Montage time already? We're only 13 minutes in. We haven't even hit the 17-minute mark, yet.

New development, someone outside her room during the night...

Next morning, her brother's toy walkie talkie again.

In the basement, she moves the dryer to find a hole in the wall with a tiny doorway. I'm guessing trolls or John Malkovich. Finds the door just after 16 minutes. 17-minute mark: she plays clarinet. I think the editor's timing was off.

But the noises are in the attic also? They interrupt her clarinet playing again--and does she have no books or games? She just practices her clarinet--and the same song--every night. Is this a female version of that bit Groundhog Day skips as Phil plays Rachmaninoff over and over and over again to get better at it?

Old School VCR--home video dated "Aug 24 1984." Someone's in their new home in the background of the footage. Nice.

Ouija Board. Bad idea. Of course, she wouldn't have seen, say, Paranormal Activity, but she could have seen Witchboard maybe, if her parents would allow it... checked IMDb and Witchboard didn't come out until 1986, so I guess Lisa probably didn't see it.

Father smokes. Lisa: "That's not part of the routine."

Nice Atari. And, on this non-routine day, the family doesn't watch Murder She Wrote.Dad is busy banging tools against the car engine; seriously, he's not doing any fixing, he is just angrily hitting it.

The scares and weird visuals and voices work pretty well, but I wonder if this film isn't going to suffer from the two porcupines problem... That's an Orson Scott Card thing. You can make your audience swallow one porcupine (i.e. one outlandish idea) but not two.

Next morning, her brother over the walkie talkie is more desperate and her parents are fighting in the kitchen. Dad thinks Mom took the sparkplugs.

Doorbell. This can't be good. If the phone company guy looks like Stephen McHattie, you just don't let him in, even if you don't suspect weird shit is going down. That's just a given. And, when his pupils have skulls in them... screw the phone, try smoke signals or something.

He wants to know how long Lisa's been "awake." She guesses a week. I'd wager longer. She's a little too comfortable with the resumptions for it to be so early in the loop.

Dad does not smoke after dinner. Mom references the recent surgeon general warning against smoking. Is there a reason this movie takes place in the 80s?

Bike ride into the fog... good idea, I suppose, but plays a little cheesy. Reminds me of In the Mouth of Madness though, since every direction is back home... and a link to that movie is nothing but good in my opinion.

Lisa has decided apparently, that she's dead and the voice she hears is alive. So, this is The Others then?

Ouija Board again... It occurs to me that I don't know where I first heard of the Ouija Board.

Lisa goes to her room to find someone in her bed, nice moment but the camera angle seems wrong, too much on Lisa and not on the bed. "Ghost" girl tells Lisa to look under the floor.

Under the floor, Lisa finds newspaper clippings, missing girls for every year since 1953. And a key to the Malkovich door.

An extra wing to the basement, flooded. No Coraline, no Malkovich, no trolls. Some random jewelry strewn about. And, girl burns in the furnace. Lisa runs. Not very helpful.

Phone rings... I'm hoping for someone to say, "Seven days" or "Have you checked the children?" The latter seems more timely.

Edgar's at the table when Lisa turns back. Young kid hanging out at the breakfast table in a suit in the 1980s cannot be up to any good.

It occurs to me as Lisa sees her family decay and cries out, "I don't want to be alone" that this movie has pretty much the same theme going on that Groundhog Day does. Well, one of the them anyway. Lisa wears a Siouxsie and the Banshees shirt, black of course, she's got a Cure poster among others on her wall. She's an early goth (or a late punk). Certainly lacking in genuine human connection.

She makes one, briefly, and this new bedroom is closer to our present. The decor is different, a little more Ikea... and there's an iPad. A different clarinet. Newspaper clipping--actually, a printout from the internet--dated April 23,1985 let's us know Lisa and her family were found dead. Ooh, her little brother is named Robert. I like him a little more now.

Lisa is now Olivia. Sister is playing on the Wii. Different mother is setting the table. Different father (who smokes) is getting angry with the car in the garage.

And, back to the 1985. You think Lisa makes a connection to Back to the Future?

Lisa finally picks a restaurant for her birthday. And, briefly, I suspect she has solved the time loop; her teenage indecisiveness was at fault all along. But, no.

Brother calls on the walkie talkie from the "secret cave" (i.e. behind the Malkovich doorway). But, no, he was messing with her. He actually in the attic and Stephen McHattie has locked Lisa in the basement. And, she found the One Ring... actually just a ring with writing on it: ...NDALE HIGH SCHOOL on the outside. Something (not Class, I don't think) of 1954 on the inside.

One hour mark: Climbs out of secret cave to find another girl trying to beat her way out of the garage with a hammer. Outfit screams 1954. Lisa recognizes her. Finding the ring connected them.

Lisa finds ether and suddenly thinks her father was in on whatever got them killed. I don't get that leap of logic.

Brother figured out they're all dead. "We're just like Pac Man," he says. "We play in the same maze over and over and we can never die. We're always in our house and that's just how it got to be." Sums up a time loop quite well.

Lisa purposely plays a new tune on her clarinet and connects to the girl in the present again, Olivia. Lisa writes a note on her arm for Olivia to GET OUT. Olivia has left a video on her laptop for Lisa. Big SPOILERS ahead. Edgar killed all those girls before but died in '83. And, Olivia's father is acting strange. In fact, he's being played by Stephen McHattie now instead of David Hewlett.

Back in 1985, Mother is "awake" now too. The missing laundry was clothes she packed to leave Dad... I'm sensing a problem here, though. Our main characters cannot actually solve anything, can they? Olivia's dad is possessed also... or is this the kind of time travel where you can change things?

Lisa confronts Dad about hiding the spark plugs. He is surprisingly quick to show he hid them. Problem now is the movie is reminding me of that part of the last season of Lost I didn't like, waking everyone up to the reality they're dead.

And then, it gets weird. And Lisa states the obvious: "We need to get out of this house."

But, when her family heads into the light out in the fog now, she stays behind. The house is in the past now, photo of young Edgar and his family on the wall. Clock stops. Kinda lame. Lisa finds Edgar using the ether on his parents. He tells her to get out of his house and she... runs. For a moment, I thought she was going to leave the house.

Edgar's got the jars seen at the beginning of the film.

Meanwhile, in the present/future, Olivia's dad looks for Olivia. She's Lisa again. She breaks down the Malkovich door and collects the jewelry to "wake up" everyone. Nice idea but Olivia's dad, then Edgar, interrupts.

Problem here: our protagonist is Lisa, but if Olivia knows her father is not himself, why can't she fight back? Why must Lisa be the one who manages to fight back? That kinda reduces Olivia's agency. I mean,

Edgar: "History doesn't repeat itself. It rhymes." Brilliant or stupid? Can't decide.

I guess I spoke too soon about Lisa being the only one who can fight back. Frances--the first victim--shows up. Then, all the rest of the girls, and Edgar's parents.

(Why not Lisa's mom and brother? They died too.)

Then--by magic or whatever, because figuring out you're a ghost means you can manipulate matter and whatnot right away--Edgar's in the furnace burning.

Lisa wishes Olivia a good life and goes to sleep. Fade to black...

But then, the walkie talkie, and fade in on Lisa waking up. The message is slightly different. It's the next morning, Lisa's birthday. Still dead, but still with her family. Outside, a big bright light. The second movie with David Hewlett in it to end with a character leaving into a bright light. And, didn't even realize it, same director. Cube was more engaging but this wasn't as bad as some people on IMDb would have you think.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: ...related to Haunter? Do I lock people in a house? No, that seems morally wrong. Figure out how to link myself to future people in my exact location? That seems a little too... not possible. Maybe I'll just do some laundry, everyone's laundry.

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