The opening moments of director Andrew C. Erin’s Havenhurst are some of the most intense and suspenseful I’ve seen in sometime. The details we have are few and far between but a woman (Danielle Harris) is in a very old building and she’s fearful of something. What exactly she’s running from we don’t know but it sends her into a mad dash as she tries to expect the building with her life. During the panic she comes across the dead body of a man which we can safely assume is her partner and then she’s pulled away by presumably the same thing that killed him.
Cut to the next day (or a few days later, it’s never quite clear) and we meet Jackie, played by a wonderful Julie Benz, a woman being released from a rehab clinic. We discover pretty quickly that Jackie was in rehab for a drinking problem but she’s made the necessary progress to be released into the real world. The terms of her release provide her with a job as a waitress at a diner and a place to live in an old gothic building known as Havenhurst. The building is an owned by an old lady (Fionnula Flanagan) with her son (Matt Lasky) handling all the maintenance.
Upon moving in Jackie must sign a lease that basically states as long as she follows the rules she’ll have a place to live for as long as she likes. Failure to follow the rules, however, results in immediate eviction. Its then that we learn the building is specifically for those that have recently been released from rehab and breaking the rules means falling back into whatever addiction landed someone in rehab in the first place.
Everything seems pretty standard and appears to make sense, right? Well as we soon learn things are never quite what they seem!
The girl from the opening was a friend of Jackie’s and she’s been looking for her ever since being released from rehab. Nobody can tell Jackie where her friend is and everyone says she probably just ran off. Well the building she was living in was Havenhurst and she too was a recovering addict of some kind. Making things weirder is the fact that Jackie was given her old room. When she brings this up the old lady says it was the only one available and her friend left Havenhurst on her own free will. We know that this isn’t the case. Odds are Jackie’s friend is dead but at the very least she didn’t leave on her own.
With the assistance of a little girl (Belle Shouse) living in the building with her parents, Jackie is determined to find her missing friend. Her solution is to break the rules and begin drinking once again with hopes that her “eviction” reveal the answers she so desperately seeks.
Havenhurst is a tight little thriller that incorporates a lot of elements from various genres in order to play out it’s own mystery. In many ways it’s a haunted house story with the apartment serving has the haunted house full. Tossed in for good measure is some bloody gore courtesy of some Saw-like contraptions (this does make sense given the film was produced by Mark Burg, one of the producers behind Saw) that remove the evicted tenants.
Before viewing Havenhurst the only familiarity I had with the work of Erin was Ice Twisters, a SyFy movie, which Erin wrote the script for. Ice Twisters is completely fine for what it is, but it’s important to remember that it is indeed a SyFy movie and very much feels like a SyFy movie. Erin has done a number of things since Ice Twsiters, including a few other directorial efforts, but Havenhurst marks the first time I’ve seen a film he’s been involved with since. The reason I bring Ice Twisters up is because it does speak to Erin’s versatility as a filmmaker but it more importantly shows a lot of growth in the 7 or so years between these two films. Granted Ice Twisters was likely a “for hire” job while Havenhurst is probably more of a passion project that is much more near and dear to Erin’s heart I think my overall point still stands.
Havenhurst is the type of horror film that is fun to stumble upon. It’s the type of film that sneaks up on you and catches you off guard. Those are the movies that tend to stick around for a while.
Havenhurst is on Cable VOD and Digital HD platforms, including Charter Spectrum, Comcast, DirecTV Cinema, Dish, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and more.
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