Thursday, November 8, 2018

In short: The Whitlow House (2018)

aka The Haunting of the Whitlow House

Steph (Baranger Clark or Baranger Dean, depending if you go by the film’s credits or everything else you can find about it online) and Jason (Freddie Jarrett) apparently have been involved in running extreme haunted houses for some time now. Particularly Jason is set on stopping to work as hired hands in the business and really wants to build something all of their own. So it’s an excellent coincidence when the Whitlow House comes up on the market just when they are looking for a new place to live. The house has a genuine history of all kinds of horrible shit happening in it following a witch burning a couple of centuries earlier, so marketing it as a haunted house should practically work by itself. All this, and they can live in it too! And hey, it’ll only cost them all of their combined money, so whatever could go wrong?

Steph, clearly the sensible one of the pair, does take a bit of convincing, but eventually, they go through with the plan, buy the place and move in. Alas, the house is indeed haunted, and soon, Steph is plagued by strange dreams and blackouts, and encounters a handful of paranormal phenomena. She very quickly wants out, but Jason – in the tradition of horror film males all over the world – is still set on keeping with the plan, even if his girlfriend is slowly going insane.

Brendan Rudnicki’s and Joel Donovan’s Whitlow House is a nice little surprise of an indie movie. It’s – as you’ve realized by now – not a terribly original film, yet it is a nicely focussed affair that seems rather conscious of the pitfalls of working on really low budgets. Well, its old spooky house doesn’t look terribly old and spooky, but I’ll just put that down to the budget.

Technically, this is a clean and effective effort – if you can ignore a sound mix that isn’t always ideal – with more than decent acting particularly by Dean, a script that doesn’t overstay its welcome or try to stretch the material it is working with for longer than is possible, even if that means the resulting film is only a lean 64 minutes long. I certainly prefer this approach to the kind of indie horror that doesn’t seem to believe in edits or ending scenes before doomsday.

Even though the scares will not exactly be new to experienced (or even semi-experienced) horror viewers, they are well realized and do fit nicely together. They really do seem to belong in the same thematic and stylistic realm, making the film feel cut from one piece. The directors also avoid going to the jump scare well again and again, instead putting the emphasis on the increasingly strained relations between its central couple.

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