Abigail Breslin has been acting since she was 6, and has spent those 11 years exploring nearly every genre. But the “Little Miss Sunshine” Oscar nominee says her favorite, at least to watch, is horror. “I’m a huge horror movie junkie,” she says, then rattles off some of her favorites, from classics like “The Shining” and the original “The Evil Dead” to newbies like “The Conjuring.” “I love things that make you a little bit terrified to be alone,” she says, laughing.
It was inevitable that she would wind up in one herself. “I’ve always wanted to do something in the genre, but I wanted to find the right thing, that was scary but smart and clever.” (By the way, technically “Signs,” her debut, was an alien invasion picture and “Zombieland” more comedy than horror.)
That film wound up being “Haunter,” which hits VOD on Friday (and theaters in NYC). Made by “Cube” and “Splice” director Vincenzo Natali — who knows a thing or two about being smart and clever, as well as funny — it’s a ghost story that starts where something like “The Others” leaves off. Breslin plays Lisa, a teenager who’s dead — killed along with the rest of her family. They live a “Groundhog Day”-style existence, constantly reliving their final day, but only Lisa has come to realize she’s dead.
“When I read this I thought it was so interesting and complicated,” Breslin says. “There was a real story behind it and real emotional life of the characters. And it was kind of hard to follow, which is always fun in a horror movie.” Indeed, the twisty film, which also has elements of dark comedy and even sci-fi, finds Lisa trying to stop the demon who murdered them (played by Stephen McHattie) from killing another family.
But she was most drawn to the character. “I saw her as a kind of typical teenage girl — apart form the fact that she’s dead — who would be annoyed at everything. It’s sad in a way. There’s a real sadness to the character.”
Breslin spends a lot of the film alone, and the film creates a sense of extreme isolation. Shooting at night — usually from early evening to first thing in the morning — helped get her in the mood. “We were in a studio the whole shoot,” she recalls. “We didn’t even see the light of day most of the time. It was a weird, weird feeling. The only time I’d see people was when I’d go to Starbucks for lunch.”
This also means she’s often acting by herself. “I was working mostly alone,” she says.“I would get the call sheet the next day and sometimes there would be one other name on the call sheet. I’d go, ‘Yes, I get to work with a person!’”
One of the more unusual aspects of the film is that Lisa was killed in 1986, meaning she has to live the ‘80s in perpetuity. What did Breslin think of a decade she missed by at least six years? “It was an interesting time,” she says. “The clothing was just… terrible. Absolutely wretched.”
She did get to learn about the pain of working a Rubik’s Cube. “I spent so long trying to figure out how I could actually do it in one scene, while delivering dialogue. The crew just said, ‘Abby, give it up.’”