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Film / Haunter

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Haunter is a 2013 Canadian horror film directed by Vincenzo Natali and starring Abigail Breslin and Stephen McHattie.

In the 1980s, Lisa is a teenage girl who appears to be stuck repeating the same day with her family in their isolated home. As she hears voices in the house calling out for her, prompting the visit of a sinister Pale Man who otherwise never appears, she realizes that she and her family died at the hands of the evil spirit long ago and were since unable to find peace. She must find a way to contact the current residents of the house to prevent history from repeating itself.

Not to be confused with a Pokémon.

This film provides examples of:

  • The '80s: The story is set in 1985 amidst David Bowie and The Cure posters, Walkmans, Pac-Man and similar mainstays of the decade.
  • Arc Symbol: The movie has a recurring skull motif going on, but eyes are even more prominently featured.
  • Battle in the Rain: Well, "battle" might be too strong a word, but the final confrontation with the Pale Man takes place in heavy rain.
  • Body Horror:
    • While investigating the house's secret cellar, Lisa has a vision of one of the Pale Man's victims trapped and being burned alive in a furnace. It lasts for barely a second, but it's enough already.
    • At a later point into her investigation, Lisa is forced to watch her family's dead bodies wither away in time lapse until they're reduced to skeletons, which in turn shatter and crumble into dust. She suffers a severe breakdown afterwards.
  • The Chooser of the One: Olivia is the one who discovered what happened in the house, realized that it was going to happen to her family, and managed to wake Lisa up, allowing her to resist the Pale Man from the dead side.
  • Creepy Child: Robbie's Imaginary Friend Edgar. Gets ten times worse when he starts speaking with the Pale Man's raspy adult voice.
  • Creepy Souvenir: When Lisa discovers the Pale Man's killing room underneath the house, she finds his collection of artifacts he kept of his victims. She later uses them to awaken the ghosts of everyone he ever killed to get them all some sorely deserved revenge.
  • Dead to Begin With: Lisa and her family are spirits who are stuck in some Purgatory-like state because the evil spirit who killed them won't let them leave the house.
  • Demonic Possession: Ghosts are able to take control of people living in the location they are bound to. After the Pale Man died, he possesses people who move into his old house to continue his killing spree. Lisa is able to contact the current girl living in the house this way in a benevolent version.
  • Determinator: Lisa is obviously scared shitless for most of the movie, but no matter what horrors she's forced to endure, she does not stop in her quest until the Big Bad is defeated and all of his victims can rest in peace.
  • Eldritch Location: Lisa's home checks all the boxes of a creepy haunted house, and then some.
  • Eye Awaken: Too many not-dead examples to list. Most stem from Lisa being trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that always begins with her waking up in her bed. She also gets knocked out a few times, only for her to awaken with the camera focused on one of her eyes.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Pale Man's victims not only died way before their time; their souls were then bound to his house where he continues to torment them as an evil spirit long after he had died himself.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Minor example. When Lisa (who's sixteen, appears to be born in 1969 and is still stuck in 1985) repeats her possession of Olivia's body in 2013, she's briefly baffled by the vid message the latter left her on a prominently placed tablet PC. The touchscreen in particular obviously confuses her. It's the movie's one and only funny moment.
  • Generation Xerox: A non-familial example. All the families that lived or live in the Pale Man's house have an astounding number of similarities with each other, down to the instrument the daughter plays and the placement of almost every piece of furniture. To top it off, the Pale Man actually drops the same Mark Twain quote that opens the trope page.
  • Going in Circles: When Lisa can't take it anymore, she tries to leave the house on her bike, only to end up back at the house each time.
  • Goth/Emo/Punk: Lisa's fashion style lies somewhere in between these three subcultures.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The movie begins with Lisa repeating the same day in her house. It's soon revealed to be because Lisa is stuck in the afterlife by the evil ghost who killed her and her family.
  • Imaginary Friend: Lisa's little brother Robbie is often playing with his imaginary friend Edgar, who eventually appears before Lisa. It's later revealed to be the killer himself appearing as he did when he was a child, as he originally grew up in the house.
  • Jump Scare: The movie makes copious use of this and Nothing Is Scarier to create a dense, atmospheric horror experience without a single drop of blood.
  • Karmic Death: At the end of the film, Edgar is surrounded by all of his former victims and mobbed, as they work together to send him to hell by burning his soul in the very same furnace he used to dispose of their dead bodies. His first victims, his parents, cover his face with the ether-soaked cloth he always used.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The souls of the Pale Man's victims are trapped in a perpetual dream-like state where they only perceive and remember what he wants them to. Snapping her family out of it so they can leave their "Groundhog Day" Loop is one of Lisa's primary motivations for her investigation.
  • Mama Bear: Lisa's mother tried to get her children out, but the Pale Man possessed her husband and murdered them all the night before she intended to run for it.
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Lisa and her family eventually manage to escape the Pale Man's grasp, but whereas her parents' and her brother's souls finally find peace, Lisa herself decides to stay and fight the Pale Man. Only when he's defeated and all the other trapped souls are free as well does she move on to join her family in the afterlife.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: When Lisa possesses Olivia's body in the world of the living, the mirror shows her actual face, but only to herself and the audience.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: How Lisa's dad reacts when he finds out that he killed his family. Lisa reminds him that he was possessed at the time, but that doesn't really help.
  • Note to Self: Played with. Lisa (ghost) tries to warn Olivia (living) about the evil spirit in the house by writing on Olivia's arm while controlling her body, but this is quickly halted when the evil spirit catches her.
  • Ominous Fog: The house is surrounded by one. Fleeing into it just leads back to the house.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: After having been stuck in her "Groundhog Day" Loop for an eternity, the fact that Lisa's family suddenly starts breaking out of their routine is the first sign that the status quo in the house has changed, and not for the better.
  • Ouija Board: Lisa uses one in one of her first attempts at finding out what the hell is going on around her. The results are... disturbing, to say the least.
  • Pac-Man Fever: Almost averted. Robbie is playing the actual Atari Pacman game with a correct controller, but with the arcade sound effects, and in 2013, Olivia's sister is playing on the Kinect with an appropriately generic game.
  • Papa Wolf: Lisa's father didn't really understand what was going on when the Pale Man was slowly possessing him, but he understood something was wrong and tried to stop himself. He was able to successfully hide the spark plugs to the family car from himself, though the Pale Man found them in the end. Olivia's father seems to try something similar.
  • Pater Familicide: This was and is the Pale Man's favourite way of killing families as a ghost, by possessing the father to kill his wife and children, then himself.
  • Please Wake Up: Name-dropped by Lisa when the Pale Man kills her family in front of her to teach her a lesson. They're back up again (and can't remember a thing) seconds later, but she's still deeply shaken by the experience.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Once the Pale Man begins to make regular appearances, he's almost always sporting a great one thanks to Stephen McHattie, well, being Stephen McHattie.
  • Sanity Slippage: What apparently happens to every family's father once the Pale Man starts taking control of them.
  • Serial Killer: The villain of the movie is a serial killer who continued to kill people beyond his death and used his powers as a ghost to keep the spirits of his earlier victims trapped in the house.
  • Self-Made Orphan: A flashback shows how the murderous evil ghost poisoned and suffocated both his parents in the 1930s. They're among the group of spirits who appear to send him to Hell at the end.
  • Sinister Shades: The Pale Man rocks a pair during his Establishing Character Moment.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Lisa's father becomes prone to doing this as his Sanity Slippage grows worse.
  • Time Travel: Played with. Lisa jumps into various years both before and after her own timeline to find out what's really going on around her. Once she knows it, she continues to do so in her effort to prevent the events that led to her death from claiming even more victims.
  • Together in Death: After Lisa saves the latest family from becoming Edgar's new victims, she is reunited with her family in Heaven on her birthday.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Lisa is initially shocked to discover that she and her family are actually ghosts, but she adjusts fairly quickly.
  • Undeathly Pallor: The murderous ghost is distinctly pale, hence his alias as the "Pale Man" before his identity as Edgar is revealed.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Abigail Breslin has quite lovely eyes by default, and the heavy eye shadow that Lisa wears only serves to emphasize them even more. The camera also likes to focus on Lisa's face in scary moments, so there's plenty of close-up shots of her eyes to be enjoyed.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Over the course of several decades, the Pale Man has killed dozens of underage women plus their respective families including any and all children.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Pale Man attempts to pull this on Lisa and her family once his possession of Olivia's dad is complete. He outright tells Lisa to her face that he has no need of them anymore now that he has a new family for his "collection", and although it remains unclear what exactly he does to people who're already dead, the implications are anything but pleasant.
  • You Monster!: When Lisa talks to the ghost of Frances, the Pale Man's first victim, she says that he was simply a monster.