Haunting at Thompson High (2006)

Haunting at Thompson High (click for larger image) Starring Danielle Schwebel, John Sousa, Alyx Mamo, Omar Martindale, Tom Bolton, Dylan Kwart

Directed by Sean Cisterna

Whether as the victim or the perpetrator, there comes a time in every student’s school career when the word “bully” comes into play. Most of the time the bullies eventually grow up and their victims are just made stronger by the experience. There are, however, those individuals who are not tough enough to handle the stress and pain of being bullied. These unfortunate souls have a weak point that, when pushed too far, “snaps” with undesirable results. As we’ve seen all too painfully in Virginia this past week, some turn against their fellow students with violence, and still others turn against themselves … or both.

Thompson High is no exception to this rule. Bullies are prevalent throughout the student body, and in turn there are many who suffer at their hands. Unbeknownst to them, three of these tyrants are about to come face-to-face with the consequences of their unsavory behavior. Jamie, Nancy, and Ty have been told to stay after school by Mr. Meier (who is acting stranger than even I remember my high school faculty behaving). After an extended period of time waiting for Mr. Meier to return to the classroom, the three students decide to find out what is causing the delay. They are met with empty halls and chained doors.

They soon realize that being trapped inside the vacant school is the least of their worries when they are forcibly reacquainted with a student they all have an unpleasant history with. Most people don’t get a reunion until after they graduate, but then again most reunions aren’t with fellow students who’ve taken their own lives either.

It’s been a while, but I can still remember what it was like for me in my high school. I had to deal with more than my fair share of bullies and jerks. I wouldn’t mind running into a few of them today … I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be too comfortable during the encounter, and I’m not even close to being as pissed off as Elliot Maggin is in Haunting at Thompson High. Poor Elliot never had the strength in life to stand up for himself, but he certainly makes up for it in the afterlife. He takes his abusers on a terrifying journey during which they are forced to abandon their bully status in order to taste life in the role of the victim … even if it is a very brief life.

A high school itself isn’t such a scary place when taken at face value, but when you remove the students and the safety daylight brings, those long, cold hallways can become downright frightening. Trickster shadows and echoing footfalls can make even the most familiar place seem dangerous and foreboding. Haunting at Thompson High uses these built-in elements of dread to their full advantage, creating the perfect setting for a ghost story.

With an original script and a cast that delivers decent performances, Haunting at Thompson High is an entertaining, effective horror film that brings more than I expected to the screen. I had a knot in my stomach during more than one scene and found myself unsettled and caught off guard a few times as well. Although it wasn’t perfect by any stretch, I did thoroughly enjoy my visit to Thompson High.

Along with the good it is only fair that I mention the bad as well. There wasn’t an over-abundance of issues that I had any major problem with, but the complaints I do have are so glaringly evident that they must be brought to light. First and foremost, if you want your film to look polished and professional, keep your buddy’s knees and microphones OUT of the shot! It may have only happened in one scene, but that’s enough to boot you right into the “Do Not Take Seriously” category. Secondly, I’m not a big fan of sanctimonious social moralization in any film, let alone having two instances of it in the middle of an otherwise enjoyable horror film, especially when the first is used before the film even gets moving far enough forward to have the audience’s full interest.

For the most part, though, the movie was a lot of fun. I know I liked it, and so did my 15-year-old daughter. If you pick up a copy of Haunting at Thompson High, you shouldn’t expect a perfect film, but you shouldn’t be disappointed with a flick that gives a whole new meaning to “school spirit!”

3 1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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