The chilling documentary "What Haunts Us," about the rampant sexual abuse at a Charleston, S.C., high school, is absolutely the stuff of nightmares and will linger far longer in its audience's minds than most films about imagined terrors.
Filmmaker Paige Goldberg Tolmach, after seven of her former schoolmates at Porter-Gaud killed themselves, examines the molestation and rape of numerous boys by their teacher, Eddie Fischer, in the late 1970s and early '80s. "What Haunts Us" features interviews with survivors as well as archival footage of the man responsible for so much pain, but the director also reveals that the school and community could have done far more to stop him.
At just 72 minutes, "What Haunts Us" recognizes that its brief running time is just about all the pain the audience can bear. However, that time allows it to only skim the surface of what happened, and it doesn't give as much insight into the events at Porter-Gaud as it might have.
Tolmach also leans too heavily on stylistic embellishments instead of trusting the power of her story, particularly interviews with Guerry Glover, who was the first person to come forward. But what's most effective about the film isn't just the events at Porter-Gaud or their aftermath; it's Tolmach's emphasis on the disturbing truth of how often abuse like this is allowed to occur.
‘What Haunts Us’
Running time: 1 hour, 12 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills