Haunts (1977)

A maniac is on the loose in your typical American small town. He is running around town in a ski mask, scissors in hand, raping (possibly) and killing (definitely) any woman he can get his hands on. Could it be the creepy new guy? Or the creepy butcher? Or the creepy uncle? Or how about that priest?

Meanwhile, Ingrid is on her inherited and completely isolated family farm, having bizarre cow milking-induced flashbacks while imagining that every man she sees is a psychotic murderer.

So in a way, Ingrid is sort of symbolic of how I felt watching this movie (right down to the bizarre flashbacks). You don't really know who to trust and at any given point in the movie you're pretty certain the killer could be pretty much any of the characters.

Part of this is because the town has no real infrastructure in place for dealing with murderers. Sure, you've got your small town sheriff and your wise doctor and some incompetent deputies and the town floozy. But everyone basically goes about their business like there isn't an insane murdered running around. Standard procedure here boils down to, "face all possible evidence with stoic denial." Even Ingrid's uncle knows this. When Ingrid comes home after narrowly escaping an attack, her clothes torn and bloody, her uncle uses the old, "it was probably a rabbit or a deer" explanation. At first I was confused and a little scared. "Is he discounting what she says happened, just because that's what you do in these kinds of movies?" Then I thought, "or.... is he suggesting that the killer is a rabbit and/or a deer?" and instead of being confused I was delighted. I chuckled a little bit but as the movie continued on I realized my first guess was right so I was a little disappointed.

I was pretty happy to find out that even after you are sure you've figured out who the killer is... well, you're probably right, but there is another little twist at the end you won't be able to predict unless you are really good at predicting things that are totally out of nowhere.

So, how about the more technical aspects of this movie. The sets, lighting, acting, effects, everything really are all roughly on the same level as a decent made-for-TV movie. The dialog is pretty natural sounding I guess, other than the "probably a rabbit or a deer" part I mentioned above.

Haunts has a pretty interesting atmosphere however. It's slow and deliberately paced and dare I say even a little boring. But it's also kind of moody and there are plenty of weird things to look out for. A lot of plot points get thrown at you and never really go anywhere. It could be an example of throwing it all at the wall to see what sticks, or it could be an expert method of making the audience (me) feel a little uneasy and unsure of things. I feel it worked pretty well.

Not as great as some of the other movies in the Chilling Classics set, but not as awful as the worst of the Sci-Fi Classics set, Haunts is a decent thriller with a great atmosphere.


Sean said...

Does the killer carry GIANT scissors? If so, does he say "YEEP-YEEP-YEEP" as he chases people?

newtmonkey said...

unfortunately no, but someone should definitely make a scissorman movie for realz yo