Havenhurst is a creepy and very suspenseful horror film about a woman who moves into a large apartment building searching for evidence of her missing friend, and discovers some disturbing secrets about the building and its occupants. The film opens on a stormy night in the city. A couple is brutally murdered in the apartment building, where no one responds to their screams. It’s kind of scary, but we know nothing about these people so we don’t care much about their fate. The creepiest moment of the scene comes after they’re both killed, when a man calmly steps into frame and begins wiping the blood from the floor with a rag.
Several weeks later Jackie (Julie Benz, from Rambo, Saw V) is getting out of a rehabilitation center and asks help from a detective she knows in finding her friend Danielle. Interestingly, she is moving into the same building where Danielle and her boyfriend lived, and ends up in the very same apartment. At first it seems she is moving there only to investigate her friend’s disappearance, but later it’s revealed that the head of the rehabilitation center apparently places many former addicts in this building. The building’s owner, Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan, from Waking Ned Devine, The Invention Of Lying), tells Jackie that the building is for people who need to get back on their feet, but that she’s very particular about whom she chooses as tenants. “Your history, rather violent and sad, stood out to me. You have struggled with your addiction, and it has cost your dearly.” Jackie doesn’t question Eleanor about what she knows, and later, through flashbacks, we learn just how much Jackie lost because of her alcoholism. Eleanor lays out the rules: “You stay sober, you lead a good life, and you don’t fall back into your old habits. Then you are welcome to stay here until the day you die.”
Jackie meets a few of the building’s other tenants, including Paula, who has fallen into her old ways and faces eviction, and Sarah, a girl who seems to know more about the building than anyone else. Sarah tells her: “Just be good. You don’t want to be evicted.” Belle Shouse turns in one of the movie’s best performances as Sarah, a girl whose home life leaves a lot to be desired. Things get more interesting when Jackie learns that Danielle had been documenting the building itself, taking photos of subtle and not-so-subtle changes. But there is something else to fear in this building as well. When people are evicted, they don’t exactly get to leave.
There are a few problems with the movie. For one thing, it’s never really clear whether the man who works at the rehabilitation center knows what’s happening in the apartment building or not. Is he in on it? Is he essentially providing victims? The biggest question for me, however, is, doesn’t this building have a stairwell? Wouldn’t they have to have one, for fire code regulations? Characters rely on the elevator, which proves a bad idea. And I just keep thinking, use the stairs! And the ending, without giving anything way, has a problem in as much as I believe the cops would have acted differently.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed Havenhurst. It moves at a good pace, never dragging, and always keeps the suspense going. Also, the cast does an excellent job with the material. They all seem completely invested in the characters and in the reality of the world, which helps us get immersed in the film’s world as well.
Havenhurst was directed by Andrew C. Erin, who also co-wrote the script with Daniel Farrands. It was released in theaters and on video on demand on February 10, 2017.