The Haunting of Whaley House is a film I watched for no other reason than, I just couldn’t bring myself to watch The Hills Have Eyes 2 from 2007. I love Wes Craven, but even I burn out once in a while. Though I will promise to finish The Hills Have Eyes Series this month. The Haunting of Whaley House was a great film to cleanse my palette, as its very heavy on the Camp. While I won’t go as far as to say that the characters are realistic, they are both like-able and very fun. When I saw the low score it has on Netflix I almost didn’t put it on and that would have been a shame as this film is worth watching. While it is very standard for a haunted house/ghost film, it knows that it is and decides right from the first scene that it’s going to have fun with it, with Shawn C. Phillips setting the tone right from the beginning even though he has criminally little screen time.
The Haunting of Whaley House opens with three friends Meathouse (Shawn C. Phillips), Simon (Donne Lawson) and Casey Martin (Jon Kondelik), three characters that would be right at home in any Troma film. They’re at the Whaley House, the most haunted house in America and decided to do the dumbest thing possible. Break a window, this of course leads to Casey Martin, the one who threw the rock to see a ghost and stumble backward into the street. Where he gets hit. This scene sets up the film perfectly, with the campy acting and stories predictability. The next day Penny Abbot (Stephanie Greco), who doesn’t believe in ghosts and works as a tour guide at the Whaley House. At the end of the shift Penny’s boss Bethany Ramero (Lynn Lowry) gives her three simple rules to not anger the ghosts that live in the house. First is never call them out as they hate that, second is never damage the house as the are very territorial and last is never go in after dark as that’s their time and reserved for them alone. After work she goes the graveyard to spend time with her friends, Giselle James (Carolina Groppa), Craig Gavin (Garham Denman), Vanessa Dane (Arielle Brachfeld), and Jake Wildman (Alex Arleo). Both Jake and Craig talk Penny into letting them in the Whaley House after dark to look around and after minimal peer pressuring she agrees. When they arrive, they meet Ray Roundtree (Jason Owsley), amateur ghost hunter and cousin to Craig and Keith Drummond (Howard McNair), a famous TV psychic, who was brought along by Ray as no parapsychologist has ever studied the Whaley House. Stating that it’s been closed off to them. Well this goes right where you would expect, the ghosts get mad, trap everyone in the house and start killing them one by one…
Like I stated everyone knows that they’re in a low-budget haunted house film, and just run with it. But on the other side of things, some of the characters, three of the four African-Americans actors were stuck with some mildly racist characters. From being insinuated that all African-Americans are thief’s or criminals to just being blatant stereotypes, with the sole purpose of shouting “Hell Nah!”. The best character, or at least the one that I found the most fun was hands down Keith Drummond, who plays his character cool and calm.
The Ghosts also leave a bit to be desired as very little becomes known about them and for a film where the ghosts are central to the story is a shame. The effects are good, in places. But overall they’re just passable. The Ghosts motivations come up but are never addressed directly or resolved. With their fascination with Penny revolves simply around that she looks like their daughter. The motivation of other ghosts is just left up in the air, with one being described as “He died bad, so he stayed bad.” as though this makes perfect sense, even though the film states the ghosts aren’t evil, just desperate. Why they’re desperate is never explored.
The location for this film is what sells it for me as the house they used is gorgeous. The Whaley House is a real place and after looking at images of it online I can see why the filmmakers choose to go with the historic Bembridge House in its place.
Final thoughts, sure this film is no masterpiece like the Exorcist or Poltergeist. But the later films influence can be heavily felt throughout the film. The acting is cheesy, as is the story and at times the effects. But The Haunting of Whaley House manages to free its self of these issues and become an entertaining film. Sure it’s one that makes you laugh, even though it’s trying to be serious. But still manages to get a few genuine scares in. 7/10