At its best when it is embracing the corners of its plot that deal with addiction.
Given that it is a disease that touches the lives of so many people, addiction is woefully unrepresented on film screens. When it is, the portrayal is often one-note. This is one area where horror stands head and shoulders above other genres. There are many horror films that approach addiction in new and interesting ways and allow characters who suffer from addiction to be likeable, vital protagonists. Havenhurst is one of those films, and is at its best when it is embracing the corners of its plot that deal with addiction.
The film’s protagonist, Jackie (played with verve by Julie Benz of TV’s “Dexter”), is an addict who moves into the titular apartment complex right after getting out of rehab. She arrives searching for her friend Danielle (played by horror-staple Danielle Harris), and is moved into Danielle’s freshly vacated apartment. Sensing that this is more than a coincidence, Jackie goes hunting for clues. However, viewers are robbed of much of the tension of this pursuit as the film’s violent prologue has already shown exactly what happened to Danielle. This conundrum is indicative of a larger problem at play in Havenhurst; the components are good (sometimes excellent), but they are consistently let down by a script that swings wildly between oversharing and unnecessary withholding.
As Jackie continues to dig, interacting with side characters like her creepy landlady (played with regal villainy by Fionnula Flanagan), a lost little girl who keeps saying ominous things (Belle Shouse) and a handsome policeman (Josh Stamberg), there is very little tension. Director Andrew C. Erin (who co-wrote with Daniel Farrands) compensates with frenetic chase scenes and ominous stalking through dark hallways.
While the horror elements become fairly predictable and more loud and violent than scary, the elements that deal with addiction, such as the landlady’s stated mission to rent out her beautiful apartments to addicts in order to help them stay sober and then watch what happens to them when they fail, are much more interesting and creepy with an undercurrent of tragedy. Jackie’s devastating backstory is also well handled, and it makes her concern for Sarah feel like a vital part of the proceedings.
Along with the performances, which are uniformly solid, many of Havenhurst’s production credits are top notch. The music (by the duo tomandandy) and production design (by Julie Walker) are particularly atmospheric and they manage to create a tense atmosphere despite the often-limp script.
Havenhurst certainly isn’t a bad movie. In fact, it is surprisingly good when considering the packaging, which makes it look like “just another” VOD horror film. In particular, the attention paid to addiction and rehabilitation adds depth to the film. Unfortunately, that depth isn’t supported by much in the way of actual horror.