'Havenhurst': Film Review

Low-rent horror in a high-rent setting.

Julie Benz plays a recovering addict who moves into a mysterious apartment building in Andrew C. Erin's indie horror film.

The title of Andrew C. Erin’s indie horror film refers to a massive, Gothic-style Manhattan apartment building whose units are rented only to recovering addicts. It’s the film’s most fanciful conceit, because if such a handsome edifice actually existed in the real estate-starved city, there would be a dramatic spike in the number of people entering rehab. Unfortunately, the other elements of Havenhurst turn out to be far less imaginative.

The film’s star is Julie Benz, who, you would think, after her regular role on Showtime's Dexter, would want to get as far away from serial killers as possible. The actress, here sporting brunette tresses, plays Jackie, a recovering alcoholic who moves into the titular residence run by the grandmotherly Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan, elegantly chewing the scenery). The old woman informs her new tenant that the one inviolable rule is that she must maintain her sobriety. Otherwise, she’ll be promptly evicted, which, as we later learn, involves a process far more lethal than legal.

Jackie, emotionally tormented over her role in her young daughter’s accidental death, has another motive for living in Havenhurst in addition to its fine architecture. She wants to find out what happened to her friend who mysteriously disappeared while living in the building and whose old apartment Jackie has inherited. Assisting her investigation from the sidelines is a friendly but skeptical detective (Josh Stamberg).

Not long after she moves in, Jackie finds that other residents start disappearing not long after they fall off the wagon. Meanwhile, she becomes the protector of a young girl (Belle Shouse) being abused by her foster parents.

Late in the proceedings, the screenplay co-written by the director and Daniel Farrands throws in a potentially intriguing plot twist involving real-life 19th century serial killer H.H. Holmes (also the subject of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming The Devil in the White City), but the revelation doesn’t lead to anything particularly interesting. Instead, the film’s climactic section mainly involves Jackie trying to evade the clutches of a hulking villain (Douglas Tait) who seems dressed for a night hitting S&M clubs.

Benz once again proves herself an appealing heroine, anchoring the proceedings with her physically and emotionally committed performance. The film’s technical elements are first-rate, including the production design and cinematography that evocatively convey the creepiness of the setting and the tense musical score by the veteran film-scoring duo known as tomandandy. But despite the strong efforts of everyone involved, Havenhurst proves all too unimaginative in its formulaic recycling of genre tropes.

Production companies: Protocol Entertainment, Twisted Pictures
Distributor: Brainstorm Media
Cast: Julie Benz, Fionnula Flanagan, Belle Shouse, Matt Lasky, Douglas Tait, Josh Stamberg, Danielle Harris
Director: Andrew C. Erin
Screenwriters: Andrew C. Erin, Daniel Farranda
Producers: Tosca Musk, Jina Panebianco, Andrew C. Erin
Executive producers: Mark Burg, R. Wesley Sierk III
Director of photography: Thomas Hencz
Production designer: Julie Walker
Editor: Todd Zelin
Costume designer: Susan Chan
Composer: tomandandy
Casting: Yasi Ramirez

84 minutes

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