A guide at a haunted house gives her friends a private tour
Actor Graham Denman (Craig Gavin in the movie), told viewers during the behind-the-scenes footage to look for THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE’s release in theatres during July 2012, but writer/director’s Jose Prendes’s $115,000 film, shot in twelve arduous days, went direct to video.
The movie delivers the story of the renowned Whaley House, and its celebrated haunting. New tour guide, Penny Abbott (Stephanie Greco) at the egging on of friends, brings them after hours to the former homestead for a midnight scare. Unbeknownst to Penny, Craig also invites fledgling ghost hunter Ray Roundtree (Jason Owlsley), and psychic Keith Drummond (Howard McNair) to tag along. The duo’s presence alone seems to unleash the spirits, and the tale turns into a free-for-all of survival.
There are two main problems with the movie: A convoluted narrative, and far too many characters. The tale’s confusion rests in how many ghosts are about, what they want, and why they’re so pissed off – at film’s end, I’m still uncertain. The clunky story, however, does move along at a steady pace, save the drawn out “séance” scene. Although there are far too many characters, Prendes does bring in additional characters as some die off, like a tag-team horror death match, to bring more “redshirts” into the fray as fodder for the ghosts. This too has problems. After the inciting incident outside the home, two other instances of minor, and fringe characters take place outdoors. The victims get caught in the ghosts’ evil doings at a distance, adding a needless element of hokiness that detracts from what could be a strong and inviting story, and will have many audience members rolling their eyes.
As you’ll find in many reviews, most dislike the acting. Overall, the acting isn’t bad, but the thesbians are certainly inconsistent. At times, one will find it hard to buy into Greco’s character, but when she allows herself to give way to emotion, her performance is quite powerful. The same goes for Denman (who also provided the original music), and Arleo. Arielle Brachfield remained true to form, though Owlsley appeared to be the weakest acting link, and phoned it all in. McNair, however, stood out in grand fashion, and I certainly hope to see more from him.
Two elements contribute to the inconsistency of THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE: The long work days, and Prendes’s directing. The helmsman brought in his acting friends to get the job done. At times, I wonder if he didn’t direct his friends as he should have simply because he knew them too well, and didn’t want to cause a ruckus when they may have only been working for a screen credit.
Besides McNair’s excellent work, the makeup department delivered some quality effects, and Douglas S. Johnson’s cinematography did not leave us squinting in the dark.
The sad part is that THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE could have been a wonderful, low budget ghost story, but the tale’s premise and subsequent development, or lack thereof, and the acting will hold it back. Regardless, it’s still worthy of a watch, and is quite entertaining.
It was also wonderful to see veteran actress Lynn Lowry again. I had hoped to ask her about her death scene in Romero’s THE CRAZIES (1973) when I saw her at Chiller Theatre several years ago, but she was stuck on the phone with an airline for what seemed like hours.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Recommended ghost stories that will rock your world:
THE HAUNTING (1963)
THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (UK, 1973)
THE CHANGELING (Canada, 1980)
THE SHINING (1980)
THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
THE RING (Japan/USA, 2002)
A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (Korea, 2003)
SHUTTER (Thailand, 2004)
THE ORPHANAGE (Spain, 2007)
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011)