Starring: Julie Benz, Danielle Harris, Belle Shouse,Fionnula Flanagan
Directed by: Andrew C. Erin
Written by: Andrew C. Erin
Original Year of Release: 2017
Run Time: 80 Minutes
In Havenhurst, Julie Benz stars as Jackie, a recovering alcoholic who has just been released from a rehab facility. She immediately sets out to find her friend, Danielle (Danielle Harris), a fellow recovering addict who disappeared several weeks ago. She arrives at the posh apartment complex known as Havenhurst, whose owner, Eleanor Mudgett, has turned into a stylish halfway house. Tenants are allowed to stay as long as they want for minimal rent as long as they obey her rules and stay on the straight and narrow path.
She is given the same room that Danielle had occupied and is concerned to find that Danielle left behind her personal possessions including a valued camera which she took everywhere. She befriends a young girl named Sarah who lives several doors down with her foster mother and her mom’s alcoholic and pedophile boyfriend.
As Jackie tries to find out what happened to her friend, she begins to notice many strange things about the apartment complex, such as features of rooms randomly altering. Doors appearing and disappearing, and even the dimensions of rooms seemingly change. Julie investigates the history of the building and the name on the painting in a hallway “H.H. Holmes” whom she discovers was a notorious serial killer who created a house of terrors in the late 1890s. She then finds out his real name was Mudgett, the same name as the owner of the apartment complex. Jackie is confronted with realization that only way she’ll be safe is to get outside havenhurst’s walls.
Havenhurst is kind of a modern take on the nefarious crimes of Holmes who is alleged to have killed as many as 200 people in his Chicago “Murder House” which was filled with secret doors, passages, and chutes where bodies were dumped into, leading to the basement where he disposed of the bodies.
Havenhurst has a palpable level of “someone is always watching” and they are. No one is ever safe, even locked in their own apartments. The foreboding creepiness is the film’s strongest point. You never know what lies behind that door or that wall, or even if the same door will be there minutes later.
The film was set at New York’s historic Dakota Apartment complex, notable as the location where John Lennon lived and was shot to death in 1980. The complex’s gothic architecture makes it a great setting for horror films and was also the setting for “Rosemary’s Baby”.
As a Danielle Harris fan I was disappointed that her appearance was so brief. She’s as close to a scream queen as we have in horror films today and always so enjoyable. Julie Benz doesn’t play that harried but heroic character as well but she’s still quite good.
Havenhurst isn’t a shock a minute film. Outside of one particularly grisly kill true horror fiends might find the action a little on the tame side. Director Andrew C. Erin builds the suspense slowly, sometimes too slowly as the middle part of the film drags a bit but there is a strong payoff at the conclusion.
Out now on VOD and on DVD in March.