Creepy ghost story avoids gore but still scares.
What parents need to know
Positive role models
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Haunter is a kind of low-voltage ghost story that focuses more on characters and mood than on blood and gore. The plot involves a killer who has kidnapped and killed teen girls for years; now he does it as a ghost. Aside from vague descriptions of his acts, very little blood or gore is shown. There are a few scary ghost scenes (including one scene in which the main character's family seems to decompose and turn into skeletons), and characters shouting and throwing temper tantrums. Language is mild and includes uses of "son of a bitch," "hell," "Goddamn," and "bastard." Adults smoke cigarettes in a couple of scenes, and there are several 1980s brand names on display. This movie won't scare older teen horror fans, but it may be fine for sturdy younger teens looking for an introductory horror movie.
What's the story?
Lisa Johnson (Abigail Breslin) seems to be living the same day over and over again, the same interactions with her mom, dad, and little brother, same meals, same Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt, same episode of "Murder, She Wrote" on TV. Unfortunately, Lisa isn't stuck in "Groundhog Day." She and her family are dead and trapped in their house, surrounded by fog. But Lisa begins hearing strange noises, and upon investigating, learns that a series of young women have been kidnapped and killed in this very house. Lisa can't save herself, but she may be able to help the killer's next intended victim.
Is it any good?
Cult director Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) has come up with an unusual, refreshing take on a typical ghost story. There's no emphasis on gore, blood, language, or sex. Even the scary stuff is muted; instead, the focus is on good, strong characters, an idea, and a mood. The house is kept enshrouded in gray fog, and yet nothing ever seems unnaturally dark. Likewise, the story is cleverly unveiled, getting the biggest "twist" out of the way early so that the characters become more important than plot.
Abigail Breslin's natural sweetness and charisma helps sell the conflicting concepts that, although she's sick of her family, she still loves them. And although she's scared of what's going on, she won't stop investigating. Her rapport with the other characters in the movie suggests a genuine connectedness, and a desire to help (as well as the courage to ask for help). It's as if Natali's supernatural setting stripped away all earthly concerns and arrived at something startlingly pure. Teens looking for a super scary movie without the blood and gore will find what they're looking for here.
Families can talk about...
- Families can talk about the movie's use of violence. What was shown and what was just hinted at? Do you think this movie would have been scarier with more blood and gore? Is there any kind of scare you won't watch?
Is the Lisa character a realistic teen? What are her positive and negative qualities?
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
About Our Rating System
The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.