Friday, December 09, 2011

House of White Spiders – review

Director: Gregg Taylor

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

House of White Spiders, well you have to love the name. This film is one of the new breed of low budget indie flicks that are distributing primarily through download, making the distribution of flicks significantly easier. In this case, the film is distributed through DistriFilm.

Of course, the ease of such film distribution means a lot of old rubbish can get through. I think to suggest that House of White Spiders is one of these totally rubbish films would be doing the film a disservice, it has some redeeming qualities but it also has some major flaws – not least in the running length that is way too long. It does, however, have a fabulous name.

Don Thoenig as Dr Marrek
The film begins with a man, later revealed to be Dr. Marrek (Don Thoenig), sat in a room, his ashtray overflowing and his poison of choice bourbon. The room is covered in crosses and (we again later discover) the windows are plastered with pages from the bible. Outside a storm begins to whip up, whilst inside he starts hearing a moaning sound.. As the storm starts to work a hanging basket from its mooring on the porch, he heads down to the cellar and feeds the unseen (bar a hand) inhabitant a mouse. The hanging basket is flung through a window, knocking away the cross that rested against the pane. He is confronted, as he heads back to his room, by a figure. We see a gloved and ringed hand, a knife, and his throat is slashed.

Jrssica (in photo) and Stephen
Stephen Kramer (William Rivera) is a struggling artist who lives with his girlfriend Jessica (Melissa Erhart). They are overflowing with bills and are due to be evicted from their apartment. He suffers from insomnia, watching old movies through the night and then trying to muster inspiration through the day, whilst she works as a waitress. You actually did get the sense of a couple in love but at breaking point through the actors.

sharing a cheesy moment
He has been adopted by a neighbour, Mrs Thomas (Ruth Ann Endress), who sends up food packages to him and buys him new pyjamas. However we know there is something wrong, given that her skin has a pallid grey tone and she steals a piece of kitchen roll with his blood on it. Unfortunately there was a tendency for Rivera and Erhart to act a bit too cheesily when together, it was done in a knowing (and thus I assume deliberate) way but it didn’t work that well. Anyway, Mrs Thomas becomes the answer to all his prayers when she tells them that a friend, Celia Watson (Beth Hoffman), is looking for someone to clean up a house for her realtor business and is willing to pay $5000 dollars for the work. More Mrs Thomas will lend him her car to get out to the country… what’s that phrase about Greeks bearing gifts?

leave this place
Well off he goes and the entire front end section of the film just took too long. He eventually gets to the house (which was Marrek’s place) having gotten lost, stopped at a derelict house (and not found the decayed body of a suicide, which was a poor effect all in all) and run into a redneck garage owner… who approaches him holding a stake. It was a good job he met him though, as the car breaks down as soon as he gets to the house. When he sees all the religious paraphernalia he is told that the previous owner was a nut, but then he had to invite Celia in (not that she needed invitation earlier, as it was her hand we saw), finds stakes and there is a sundial deely in the house that shows the hours to sundown and the time when it is unsafe (the night). Yet somehow his horror film geek didn’t trigger – and that didn’t ring true.

video capturing spirits
The film has interesting moments. There is a graveyard (and whilst I am no expert on US cemeteries, it seemed too large and well-kept to be a country cemetery, it looked provincial) and when he films it he sends it to Jessica and she sees people stood by the graves. Nothing was really done with that bar the Reverend (Bob May) creeping around trying to warn Stephen, when he was a spirit also. The fact that they were on the film (but unseen as he filmed it) could have opened up avenues of story. Incidentally, you might notice some white spots on the still with this para (when enlarged). These were unnoticed in the film as watched but appeared on several of the screen shots to a greater or lesser extent, some sort of digital stress I guess.

starving vampire
There are flowers shown that have odd petals – a rare nightshade we are told – that look like plastic spiders… indeed that’s what I believe they were. These are, of course, the white spiders of the title and the result looked fake but so kitsch it worked. Not so with some of the physical modelling, such as the half-starved vampire chained in the cellar. I’m afraid it looked simply bad (much like the aforementioned suicide) and jolted the viewer out of any suspension of disbelief.

on a porch in daylight
I did like the fact that Stephen is clearly a moron. The answers are all around him and he never twigs. He even has grave rubbings that spell the solution to the mystery out to him. A bloody stake, physically protruding through a door in the cellar, does not raise the slightest moment of enlightenment from him, despite watching old horror and vampire movies. As for the vampires much is hinted (as we barely see them until the end). They seemingly cannot stand sunlight (except that Stephen escapes from one stood on a porch in daylight), they need invitation (but Celia enters the house at the beginning) and they can be staked and starved – removal seems to fix the stake issues however. There was an indication that a circle (of what might have been) salt can keep them out or trap them within.

back foul demon
So bad effects, a little good acting (mainly the Stephen and Jessica interaction) and many cheesy moments, some telling day for night shots and way, way too long. Half an hour needs shaving of the running length. That said, this seems to be the first film for the director and all the principle actors and they did pull off making a film. I will say that there was a euro-horror heart in a US indie body and perhaps they needed to hang on to the heart a little more. I have seen worse, however, and it had some interesting aspects. Taylor needs to hang on to that and work with it. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Clark49 said...

the first thiong that jumped out at me (blame my zombie upbringing if you will) was the cemetery. Both by description and picture it was very reminiscent of the cemetery at the start of the seminal "Night of the Living Dead". Do you suppose it could have been an homage to George A. Romero, albeit in a vampire film?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The still doesn't really do the size of the cemetery justice so I don't know...

However, something to note is that as I said the main character watches a lot of older films and these include the vampire bat, nosferatu, the devil bat and night of the living dead.

Clark49 said...

the cemetery in NOTLD is a rather large seen in many American films where they have roads through it as opposed to paths so who knows?