Haunting of Helena, The (2013)
Directed by Christian Bisceglia and Ascanio Malgarini
One of the most striking aspects of Christian Bisceglia and Ascanio Malgarini’s The Haunting of Helena is the persistent use of the same score throughout the film. While a general leitmotif is common and should, in most cases, not be seen as a detriment, this film seemingly strives to use it as often as possible solely to imply suspense where there is none. And that’s all The Haunting of Helena is: a boring, unoriginal thriller that works more as a collection of fragmented scenes rather than a real narrative.
The film follows Sophia, a recently divorced professor in Italy who moves into a new apartment with her young daughter Helena, which happens to coincide with the loss of Helena’s first tooth. Soon thereafter Helena begins to speak of seeing the “tooth fairy,” compelling her to seek out the teeth of her classmates and utter cryptic statements to her mother and teacher. Who is the tooth fairy, and what does she really want?
While the answer to that question is ultimately answered, it takes a long and laborious hour and fifteen minutes to get there, and by then you don’t even care. The Haunting of Helena possesses a number of problems, the most amusing of which is the decision to cast a young child with fully grown adult teeth to play a child who has yet to lose any of her baby teeth. Throughout the first half of the film she plays the creepy child archetype, spouting out nonsense one-liners in an attempt to inject a modicum of suspense in a film that relies far too much on its score to create any sense of suspense.
At about the halfway point in the film, the narrative inexplicably jumps ahead eighteen months, going from a “creepy kid saying creepy things” approach to a light detective story that’s anything but engaging. The film simply lacks any ounce of subtlety or organic progression, with the majority of the plot being a paint-by-numbers affair that strives to hit contrived beats. The tooth fairy, arguably the most intriguing part of the film, is seen once, with the rest of her appearances being relegated to swarms of flies, indicating that someone is about to die.
It’s as if the entire film was written off a first draft, with dialogue written in Italian and thrown in Google Translate. It’s just a jumbled mess of scare tactics that tries so hard to be more than just a rote thriller, but fails miserably.
1 1/2 out of 5