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In sticking with its prominent position in the campaign of keeping Austin weird, the film side of South by Southwest has always been a lot friendlier to horror films than almost any film festival that isn’t singularly geared towards a genre. Instead of being relegated to time-filling slots, films like Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem and Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake are as anticipated as any other films being shown, and E.L. Katz’s Cheap Thrills was the first sale of the festival.
The second SXSW sale went to Haunter, the latest film from director Vincenzo Natali, who last gave audiences the polarizing sci-fi Splice and first broke into the business with 1997’s cult classic Cube. Deadline reports the Midnighter selection’s U.S. rights were appropriately acquired by IFC Midnight. The screenplay was written by Brian King, who wrote and directed 2009’s decent Night Train and worked with Natali on 2002’s sci-fi mystery Cypher.
Haunter gives 16-year-old Abigail Breslin her first leading role as Lisa, a girl whose family was killed in 1986 and are now stuck inside of the house where they died, though only Lisa realizes it. When a new family moves into the house, their teenage daughter Olivia (Skins’ Eleanor Sichy) becomes Lisa’s link to the real world, which Lisa must use to stop Olivia’s family from meeting the same fate. Hopefully Haunter’s original premise isn’t wasted on the limited scope and ghostly time travel that’s supposed to occur throughout. It’s hard enough for indie horror without introducing time travel into it.
It also stars Stephen McHattie (XIII: The Series) as the antagonist The Pale Man, as well as David Hewlett, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Noldon and Sarah Manninen. No release dates have been planned for Haunted just yet, but that news should be forthcoming now that someone is paying to distribute it.