“Once they leave the building, one rarely hears from them again.”
From the opening scene, which seems to say “It was a dark and stormy night”, Havenhurst is as conventional as a horror film can be. Besides the dismal weather for the opening, we immediately discover that we’re going to hear a lot of screaming in the film. There is no doubt that bad things are going to happen.
Jackie (Julie Benz) just finished a stint in rehab for her alcoholism. She finds a place in Havenhurst, a gothic style building in Manhattan. It is a large apartment building that serves as a kind of halfway house for those trying to straighten out their lives. Jackie is told by the oh-so-proper landlady Eleanor (Fionnula Flanigan) that she is welcome to stay there as long as she wishes—so long as she doesn’t go back to her old ways. Failure to live a good life will result in an eviction notice. One of Jackie’s friends had been staying there, but is suddenly gone. Apparently, those who don’t live up to expectations often leave soon after being told they are being evicted.
After a few screams in the night, Jackie, along with a neighbor girl (Belle Shouse) whose foster-mother is now gone and a detective (Josh Stamberg) who has some unexplained relationship with Jackie, begin to investigate the disappearances. This is a building filled with secret passages and trapdoors that always seem to be in just the right place. I came to think of these as symbolic of the plot holes that permeate the film.
Some fans of horror films like to point out it is the only genre that treats the existence of evil as a reality. There is indeed evil in this film, although we may never be quite sure of that evil exists in a supernatural plane or within human nature. What makes the Havenhurst come up short in this regard is that it fails to treat the existence of virtue as a reality. It isn’t just that we are dealing with flawed characters—flaws are often what make them interesting. But here the characters are really only drawn as victims, most of whom we don’t miss when they are gone.