Daily Archives: October 1, 2013

Haunts (1977)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Haunted by childhood memories

This is an extremely odd horror film that manages to be effective nonetheless. The story deals with Ingrid (May Britt) a deeply spiritual woman living alone on an isolated farmstead and occasionally visited by her uncle Carl (Cameron Mitchell).  She is haunted by strange childhood memories and visions that are never quite clear. When a killer begins murdering women in the nearby small town Ingrid feels she knows who the culprit is and when he attacks her she notifies the police, but no one seems to believe her, which leads to weird and unexpected twists.

The film has all the usual trappings that one might expect from a low budget 70’s horror film and in some cases it is even worse. The film stock is faded and grainy and while in a certain way this helps build atmosphere it also looks like someone’s amateurish home movie. The lighting is flat and the backgrounds of the interior scenes are quite bland. The voices of the actors echo and sound like they were picked up by a weak inexpensive boom microphone. There are also certain nighttime sequences that are too dark and shadowy and it is hard to follow the action and yet despite all this I still found the film to be quite captivating even more so than most horror films.

Writer/director Herb Freed captures the small town life quite well. Filmed on location in Mendocino, California the rainy, gray climate, dry fall-like landscape, and old gothic style homes helps build a great atmosphere. Pino Donaggio’s musical score is filled with long violin strains and flute solos that usually would be better suited for a romance yet the melodic sound works surprising well with the material and even heightens the dark underscore of the story. The characters have interesting flaws and although the scares are quite sparse they are still effective.

Britt gives a superior performance and casting her in the lead was astute. Her bright blonde hair and Swedish accent helps give it distinction. The scenes that she is in are compelling while the ones without her are a dull and draggy. Mitchell isn’t quite as good. He was once considered an up-and-coming star until alcoholism banished him to low budget movie hell. He openly took just about any part for the money and I couldn’t help but feel that he was phoning in this one. Aldo Ray who plays the town sheriff isn’t much better, but I felt this was more from lack of talent than effort.

The killer could have been created to be more frightening and distinguished than just some schmuck with a ski mask. The movie is also a bit overlong and at times confusing. It requires close attention and maybe even a repeat viewing to totally get it. Conventional horror movie fans may be put off by the lack of gore and its slow, but deliberate pace where the emphasis is more on mood than chills. However, the restrained and prolonged ending has to be one of the most unique in horror film history. The twist is intriguing and the final image that is captured through a mirror is memorable.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 12, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Herb Freed

Studio: International Film Distributors

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube