There has certainly been an influx in the more atmospheric side of horror filmmaking within the past few years. My go-to example is always the Ti West creepfest The House of the Devil, but there have been several other throwback titles within the past few years that have shown more of an affinity towards slow creeping terror than simple jump scares or gory shocks. While House of White Spiders is a horror title that can not be held down under any one single concept, when it does actually delve into its horror elements it does so with the panache of this recent wave of atmospheric and tension fueled horror films. House of White Spiders is not just a horror movie, however. The most apt description would be to place it within the horror-comedy pantheon, but the strange brew that director Gregg Taylor is able to concoct makes for an interesting watch and a genre-defying little indie feature.
Stephen (William Rivera) is an artist of sorts who apparently does horror related artwork for local bands and events, but has been feeling at odds with his girlfriend Jessica (Melissa Erhart) since this line of work isn’t exactly making them a fortune and she has had to carry their bills. Downstairs from the young couple is the quiet old owner of the apartment building Mrs. Thomas (Ruth Ann Endress) who often cooks for Stephen and even gives the couple gifts regularly. After a terrible fight over the finances, Mrs. Thomas offers Stephen a job that could take care of everything. He is told that he can be paid $5,000 just to clean and look after an old house, located in the middle of nowhere, that is owned by a friend of hers. This money could provide a new car for the young couple or simply take care of all their bills, how could they say no? Once Stephen arrives at this idylic country home though, strange things begin to happen.
House of White Spiders is a film that has issues, there’s no question about that. I will get to the pacing and the twists in just a few moments, but I might as well focus on the positives first, for which there are many. For one, within the independent film world, its easy to get used to terrible acting and never expect anything more from these films. While I am not here to say that House of the White Spiders features Marlon Brando-worthy characters or that there aren’t a few hiccups now and again throughout, but the character work done by the actors here is quite credible. William Rivera who stars as Stephen does a good job in carrying the film and shows a lot of charisma with this role. His naturally likable attitude helps sway the viewer to his side throughout the movie, even when his character makes some pretty bad decisions. Honestly, when you show up to a creepy old house with bible verses pasted over the windows and THEN you see ghosts and have freaky run-ins with supernatural creatures, shouldn’t your instincts tell you to run? Que sera, sera! It’s easy to pick apart the logistics of a horror movie, so we’ll just refrain from heading down that road.
This latter half of the film, when the character of Stephen actually manages to make it to the potentially-haunted house from the title, we finally see the movie come into its own. The mix of genuinely tense horror and the sarcastic nature of the script start to really swell and become something unique. It is during this section of the film that director Gregg Taylor finds his momentum and allows for his influences to really start shining through. As the film features several shots that simply HAD to be inspired by The Evil Dead, I think it’s safe to say that Taylor certainly loves this genre. It is unfortunate that he does rely heavily on genre tropes and cliches throughout, because it proves to be one of the bigger weaknesses the film has. I see that the filmmakers were trying to create a farcical comedy within the tight confines of a very stereotypical haunted house story, but it seems that you could have done this without falling back on so many things we have seen before. I suppose that is one of my biggest complaints with the picture, along with the pacing and the twists that come about during the final half that simply didn’t work for me. The pacing is definitely something that will have an effect on all who view the film. Clocking in at two hours in length, House of White Spiders is definitely a slow burn with maybe a bit too much time spent in the average life of Stephen and his girlfriend during the first half of the picture.
Overall though, if you asked if I enjoyed the film, the answer would be a yes. Far from being a perfect, the moments where things start to click tend to make up for the segments that do not. If the chance to watch the film comes your way and you’re interested in a neat little haunted house story, why not? You can read more about the project at the official Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/House-of-White-Spiders/170902922600