Friday, April 2, 2010

'Haunts' is an interesting misfire

Haunts (aka "The Veil") (1977)
Starring: May Britt, Cameron Mitchell, and Aldo Ray
Director: Herb Free
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A young woman (Britt) haunted by dark memories is stalked by a murdering rapist, or is she? The town sheriff (Aldo) thinks she's being hysterical... and just what is it her slovenly uncle (Mitchell) doing with his nights?

"Haunts" is a thriller that attempts to use a mentally unbalanced character to provide the narrative Point of View for the film. It's a clever and laudable idea, but it's not one that the director and writer (one and the same, at least with a co-writing credit on the script) were up to pulling off. The film is a bit too slow in unfolding, and what could have been a truly powerful ending (with some chilling realizations dawning on the part of the attentive viewers) is weakened by it likewise going on for a tad too long and by a last-minute attempt at throwing a possibility of something supernatural into a straight thriller. Once again, we have an ending that's ruined by filmmakers who just didn't know when to quit.

With some judicious editing, this film could actually be quite good, and it's one I wish I liked more. There's alot of misspent potential here, and all the three leads do such a good job that the void of talent embodied by some of the supporting cast is almost not noticeable. (In fact, a scene in a bar featuring two of these talentless actors could be cut almost entirely, and the film would immediately get stronger in several ways--the mystery of the killer's ID would be heightened, and we'd have lost some of the more noxious flab dangling from the work's body.

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