07th Jun2021

HORRHIFFIC 2021: ‘The Whooper Returns’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Caroline Nicolian, Nathan Hollabaugh, David Flick, Owen Miller, Rik Billock, Megan Bolton, Andrew Ashbrook Freed, Dylan Grunn, Julia Best Warner | Written and Directed by Samuel Krebs

Let’s not mess around, The Whooper Returns is a terrible title for a film that takes the familiar tropes of haunted house stories and turns them on their head, creating a meta take on films like The Amityville Horror. For yes, The Whooper Returns is very much like The Amityville Horror, if that film turned out to be based on a story made up by a mentally troubled housewife and her kids. Which might be the case knowing THAT franchise!

The Whooper Returns opens in a faux-VHS style as we, the audience, watch a Halloween broadcast of The Whooper – a film based on the haunting of the Schepp family home. That film was purportedly made in 1975, after the rights to the Schepp family store was bought and adapted into a horror film shot on location in the very house the hauntings took place! The Whooper bombed at the box office but became a cult classic on home video. Sound familiar? That’s pretty much the story of a LOT of genre films.

Only the Schepp families story was completely untrue. As we find out as the film jumps forward to 2016 and the Schepp family return home to deal with the death of their mother and fight over what should happen to the Schepp home – a home filled with memories and history and not much of it good. Peter Schepp plans to blow the house to pieces; Theo, the owner of the Schepp family business (a water bed line?!) wants to sell the house; yet his son Vincent believes the stories to be true and camps out in the home, investigating possible supernatural phenomena while watch reruns of The Whooper movie; then there’s Franky who’s just trying to hold the family together. In the middle of all this is Terri Schepp, the only female of the family who wants nothing more than to end the ridiculousness of the “Whooper” mythology and get rid of the house and move forward with her life…

Into the tense familial conflict comes Cathy, a Whooper super-fan who has apparently been communicating with the Shepp’s deceased mother and wants to buy the house! Well I say in comes Cathy but she brings some friends with her – fellow Whooper fans and strange devotees of her who stage a home invasion of the Schepp’s house, terrorising Terri and her family.

As I said in the opener, The Whooper Returns is a very meta take on the haunted house film a la Amityville – here explaining away some of the so-called hauntings as pranks by the kids father, other phenomenon played out in the mind of their mother. Whatever the case, the Whooper haunting and the film that followed has become of millstone around the family. It’s a burden more than anything to celebrate. The infamy is hard to escape for the Schepps. But it’s something to celebrate for Cathy – who takes her fandom to the kind of toxic levels we’re seeing today on social media… it’s a similar tale to The Fan, where obsession becomes dangerous, so dangerous that Cathy takes things into her own hands.

She’s making a sequel. A sequel she and the obsessive Whooper fans want to see. Using the Schepp’s as unwitting participants in her story – literally live-streaming the very film we, the audience, are watching. Told you this was meta… It’s also a terrifying look at the horror of ultra-obsessive fandom, which is MORE scary than a possible supernatural haunting! It’s also a great blurring of the line between reality and fiction – Cathy can’t distinguish between the two and here writer/director Samuel Krebs blurs the line too, smudging the line where Cathy’s “film” starts and this film, The Whooper Returns, ends.

Not without some technical issues, as is typically the case for low-budget filmmaking, but nothing that can’t be overlooked, The Whooper Returns has a lot to say about horror, fandom and how the two interact and as such is well worth your time.

***½  3.5/5

The Whooper Returns screened as part of this years Romford Horror Film Festival ons Saturday June 5th.

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