Director: Herb Freed
Starring: May Britt, Cameron Mitchell, Aldo Ray, Ben Hammer .USA. 1h 37m
There’s a lot bubbling under the surface of Herb Freed’s tangled thriller, Haunts. On the surface it’s a slow paced brooding psychological horror following a violent psychopath preying on the women in a small North Carolina town, armed with a handy pair of scissors and attacking under the cover of darkness no woman is safe but so much seems to surround an isolated farm on the outskirts of town.
Freed’s approach is to circumnavigate his own narrative as he centres the story around the quiet and dull life of Ingrid (Britt), a timid Swedish immigrant who lives on a goat farm with her vacant uncle. The young pious girl has male collars twitching all over the village but she remains a avid church goer and pure innocent virgin and has a sinking feeling that her uncle has something to do with the murders, but had no proof to out him with so she remains ever watchful especially as every other adult male in town have a rapeyness about them, young pretty girls like Ingrid need to be aware.
Without the evidence for a police interview, and deranged killer strikes who strikes over and over again, she has her own dilemmas to deal with, how does she keep herself safe from her uncle? Ingrid finds herself chased through the graveyard at night by a masked figure, perved on by a local Butcher named Bill whose advances triggers a strange regression, and memories of molestation comes to the surface, this insight into Ingrid’s dark past beings to see the women’s mental health unravel and the movie begins to get more tangled and interesting.
A Psycho-Sexual thrill of a woman possessed.
Freed and his wife came up with the idea for this story when they underwent regression therapy after his wife witnessed a car accident. The whole idea of a hazy recollection and regression are powerful mechanisms to pull and push the story into anything that Freed wants, and he’s quite flamboyant with laying out the plot twists, almost like applying constant pressure throughout the movie.
There’s a touch of Giallastro when the stalker rushes the girl in the dark, scissors clutched in a leather hand glove, but without proof, the police start wondering what Ingrid’s problem is, this all starts to look like another Cindy James case.
With lots of filters and filming done mostly at dusk or in pitch dark, there is a struggle to follow what’s going on in great detail especially between the dull and grainy atmosphere, however this is probably an attempt to encourage mystery, if not then it’s definitely a happy accident. Bolstered with a heavy romantic soundtrack there’s a lot of disjointed techniques that somehow work. Voices bounce off the interior of the clumsy farmhouse that most of the movie is set
Ingrid’s long suffering uncle is played by the more seasoned Cameron Mitchell who had quite a run of B Movie horrors in the late 70’s after his alcoholism downgraded him from the up and coming list to the straight to VHS bin, but he takes this one on the chin as he doesn’t have to do a lot, there’s one gut churning scene where Ingrid is being molested, the culprits hand has her mouth smothered, he Uncle attempts to pop into her room to talk but assumes she’s sleeping so backs and says he’ll see her in the morning, dude you literally could have saved her! It goes to show how many dangerous people live in this tiny town.
As the real identity of the killer is slowly revealed with some stylish techniques, the film loses its luster, unlike the Giallo films it seems to want to follow it’s not an amazing twist of fate, but it could have been! So much about Haunts screams Slasher but the film is very much dedicated to the style of Gothic horror as it relies on moods and atmosphere for it’s chills and thrills. It remains an interesting combination of ideas, however fails to really deliver a brilliant on screen feast of the eyes.
R: The Asphyx (1972), Cries in the Night (1980), Beyond Evil (1980), The Demon (1979), Psycho (1960)
L: A-Z of Psychological horror Vol 1
5s: Cameron Mitchell