When freshly sober Jackie (Julie Benz) discovers that her former rehab buddy Danielle (Danielle Harris) has gone missing, she starts her search at Danielle’s last known location, gothic apartment complex Havenhurst. While she may have the assistance of cop Tim (Josh Stamberg) and young resident Sarah (Bella Shouse) on her side, all isn’t quite what it seems within this eerie building, and it may be that Jackie has gotten herself too deep into a hole that she simply cannot get out of.
Andrew C. Erin’s Havenhurst is a largely by-the-numbers tale when its comes to its setup – friend heads to spooky building in search of her recently-vanished pal – but it’s certainly an above-average film that should tick a lot of boxes for longtime horror hounds. From its pulsating, nail-biting opening, Havenhurst is a film that hooks you in and then proceeds to drag you along at a frenetic pace. And it’s the pacing on display here that’s one of the most effective elements of the movie, with the story from Erin and co-writer Daniel Farrands expertly played out; Havenhurst barely stops for breath, and no scene or action is a wasted one.
Obviously with a film of this nature it’s expected that we’ll get twists and turns aplenty, and Havenhurst delivers on that front, too, as Julie explores the mystery behind Danielle’s disappearance and the greater mysteries of the titular complex – itself an apartment block that specialises in recently cleaned-up addicts and others who are battling certain issues. And it’s the concept of addiction that’s very much at the heart of this story, with Julie herself struggling with grief as she reflects on how her boozing ways ultimately led to the tragic death of her young daughter. So, with young Sarah on hand to help out, it’s the relationship on show here that gives Julie almost a second chance at being a mother figure. But still, there’s much, much more going on within the confines of Havenhurst, and it’s that mystery that will keep you glued to the screen.
Also keeping your attention will be the absolutely mesmerising look of Havenhurst, with it overflowing with rich gothic charm that has been perfectly captured by Andrew C. Erin and his team. The building is as much of a character in its own right as any of the film’s key players, and the mystique surrounding it is only further added to by the head of the complex, Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan). Serving the best interests of Havenhurst, this landlord is one who isn’t averse to handing out eviction notices when needed – and eviction is something that’s quickly established as an option you really, really don’t want to explore.
Havenhurst is a tight, tense and claustrophobic thriller that’s held together by some perfectly-pitched performances – notably from Benz and Flanagan, and praise should also be directed towards young Bella Shouse as well – and it’s certainly a movie that we’d encourage you to hunt down. Clearly particular plot points will feel a little overly familiar to some viewers, but the delicate direction and glorious atmospheric backdrop of the Havenhurst building brings a certain charismatic freshness to proceedings.
In a genre and budget bracket that so often drifts into the territory of formulaic and generic, Havenhurst is an atmospheric effort that continually tightens its grip as it ratchets through its sharp, effective 80-minute run time.
HAVENHURST / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ANDREW C. ERIN / SCREENPLAY: ANDREW C. ERIN, DANIEL FARRANDS / STARRING: JULIE BENZ, FIONNULA FLANAGAN, BELLA SHOUSE, JOSH STAMBERG, DANIELLE HARRIS, DENDRIE TAYLOR / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 10TH