The Haunting of Helena (Christian Bisceglia and Ascanio Maglarini, 2012)
There are some truly arresting scenes in The Haunting of Helena, the kind of risky stylistic choices that, done correctly, can go a long way towards making or breaking a movie. For example, the scene where Helena (Sabrina Jolie Perez in her only screen role to date) is sitting at one of those brightly-colored little-kid desks. There’s nothing much else in the room, which is odd and does not ring true and contributes about a mountain’s worth of atmosphere. Then something falls and clatters off the desk, and this begins a rain of bloody teeth as Helena scrambles under the desk. It’s a pretty amazing visual, and little scenes like that, were they correctly integrated with the rest of the movie, would have made this an overlooked little gem. As it is, however, they make it an interesting, if ultimately failed, experiment that still manages to be worth watching for little things like that that crop up once in a while.
Plot: Helena and her mother, Sofia (Smile‘s Harriet MacMasters-Green), move into a lovely old home. Dad (The Passion of the Christ‘s Jarreth J. Merz) is out of the picture, so the two of them are on their own. Everything goes swimmingly until Helena loses her first tooth. (Soon after, Sofia has a rather terrifying vision that you would think would make her put more stock in what her daughter is saying, but no luck.) She starts talking about a tooth fairy who comes to visit her demanding teeth, to the point where she starts buying teeth from kids at school…and paying them in rare coins that seem to have been mysteriously conjured out of nowhere. Sofia, determined to find a rational explanation for all of this, draws in an ever-widening circle of doctors, psychologists, and even her ex, while Helena continues to insist that there is indeed a supernatural explanation.
The movie’s main drawback, which more than counteracts the main strength above, is that you have seen it before (even the Tooth Fairy angle has been covered by at least two movies I can think of off the top of my head in the past decade). Bisceglia and Maglarini did nothing new with the story; it struck me that they were relying on a series of arresting images to carry the film, rather than attempting to push any envelopes. To their credit, said images can be very arresting, and the film is beautifully-shot. If that’s enough for you, it’s worth checking out, but it probably shouldn’t be at the top of your list. ** ½