Every city, everywhere, has a legendary haunted house, one with a brutal history and numerous tall tales and perhaps many trespassers, sometimes the building becomes a tourist attraction where one gets a guided tour, such as with the Whaley House located in Old Town, San Deigo, which still stands after the creation in 1857 now protected as a California Historical Landmark. Now director and writer Jose Prendes who had done the Haunting of Winchester House (2009) created an independent low-budget movie for the film studio Asylum, however the location was not the actual Whaley house, rather the ghostly home of Bembridge where musician and school teacher Dorothy Bembridge lived from 1918 until she was murdered in 1999. The entire film brought together the best group of location, actors and crew for the lowest dollars to fit the budget of $115,000.
The story opens with three curious ghost hunting friends who start hunting and poking around, one of them the notable Matthew “Meathouse’ Carter (Shawn C. Phillips of 64 horror films, and 14 of them in various stages of production), meets his end by stage exit, but not before referencing Dario Argento. That set ups the beginning of this movie, and clearly not the Whaley house, Penny (Stephanie Greco) a tour guide, who learns about the rules of the home from her boss Bethany, portrayed by the talented Lynn Lowry. The rules include don’t call the ghosts out, don’t damage the house and don’t enter the house at night, it does not take long to break the rules, if they didn’t then there would be no movie and hence no review. Lynn does a thought provoking scene, with her, notes why she is still in favor with directors, such as Ryan Scott Weber’s Pretty Fine Things (2015). As the group of friends Vanessa and her boyfriend Craig (Arielle Brachfield and Graham Denman), Penny’s boyfriend Jake (Alex Arleo) and lastly Giselle (Carolina Groppa) arrive for an amateurish ghost hunt and party, complete with a handy definition of the equipment, which many know from watching every other Ghost Hunter television show all from Ray (Jason Owsley). Jose created a simple but by-the-numbers haunted house b-movie, which abandons the serious ghostly intent for some comedy and places proper creepy moments as filler. Although, for good measure, the actress Mindy Robinson of over 36 horror flicks graces the screen for her character Candy Galore (a play on name like that of the James Bond films) gives the audience the modest amount of nudity for the T&A portion. The ghosts herein find themselves a tad scarce in the film, and a letdown for the jump scenes, while the haunted house doesn’t have the ghosts appearing the frequent storytelling and atmosphere generated by the location serve to provide the necessary scare factors. For example, The Haunting (1963) the house does all the work, and the characters use it with a few frightful moments to create a cinematic classic, this film is not that by any means.
It’s a slow paced film at times and with dramatic twists it gradually moves on two different directions, as if two directors battle for control of the set, and not the ghosts or spirits had influence, rather, the limited 12 day shoot schedule and dreaded 14-hour day. Although, the ghosts are at a distance, the gore isn’t and in fact has characters hitting themselves repeatedly in the neck with a hatchet for a close up on the gory wound and pumping blood out the jugular arties. Then another gore-hound treat the caretaker who for ungodly reasoning ignores the incredible Candy only to be spooked by a corpse and runs to an old fashion water pump which oddly is pumping his own blood outward. The characters especially seem bored inside the house, allowing for Ray and his friend, Keith (Howard McNair, masterfully showcasing his talents) and taking center stage from knowing how to enter the room, command attention, and for the most part overtakes the weaker roles.
Life magazine and the United States Chamber of Commerce declares the Whaley House the most haunted, and I have been to the house and found it eerily due to the historical past, a place of a courthouse, a residence, and a gallows hanging, not many places can attest to that legendary past. Perhaps that hinted my insight to view this film and review it and that Maria Olsen plays yet another creepy character very well again, in a cameo appearance as Anna Whaley. However, overall the abundance of haunting films on the market, this one has much for gore-hounds to feed on, and enjoy references to Amityville and The Exorcist, while longing for the real Whaley house experience.