Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The MONTH of HORROR - Day 22: The Legend of Hell House

I really have not watched all that much gothic, British horror. That fact does not bother me at all, it's just something I've really never explored, so what better place to start than this 1973 haunted house cult movie that both borrowed from ghastly classics of the 50's, and would also influence future fright flicks down the road?

Based on a story by Richard Matheson, 'The Legend of Hell House' is a spooky affair, made all the more atmospheric by the blanket of thick fog that ceases to lift from the haunted estate that our characters will spend the majority of the run time in. The house itself, especially the exterior, is quite impressive, and I do wish there was more action set outside however that's really just a minor nitpick in an otherwise very engrossing horror flick. The story follows a quartet of scientific individuals, ranging from physicists, to mediums who are tasked by their university to research a local manor that is believed to be responsible for the mysterious deaths of both fellow colleagues, and various innocents throughout the years. The first main character we meet is Dr. Barret (Clive Revill), and he's already convinced from the beginning that this is a very haunted place, so it's actually refreshing for a film like this where no one is a skeptic, and needs to be scared into believing, as they're all on the same page the moment they step inside.

Roddy McDowell plays a man who has a history with Hell House--he barely escaped from within it once before, and he has some much needed experience which could help (or hinder) the group throughout the week they agreed to stay. If it's somehow possible to cleanse the giant mansion of evil spirits who wish to harm those that dwell within, then that would be the ultimate goal. Dr. Barret waits on a machine to arrive that'll release a form of radiation throughout, and if all goes according to plan, it'll vanquish the ghouls for good! In the mean time though, our characters do your typical dumb things like leaving each other alone even after some of them have been physically attacked by sights unseen, or when one of them goes crazy they decide against restraints, putting everyone further at danger--silly tropes like that.

'The Legend of Hell House' isn't amazing but it's fairly effective overall. There are some decent jump scares, the atmosphere is terrific, the acting isn't overly campy, and the resolution is quite good. I was however very annoyed by the constant time and date checks as the movie chugs along, I'm not sure what the creative decision behind that was but it was a terrible one as I really did not need to be reminded every ten minutes what time of day it was. The female characters are also treated in a pretty sexist way which I suppose was more acceptable in the early 70's but is a tad unusual now--both women end up throwing themselves at the male characters, and even if they are possessed when those advances are made, it was still a little weird. It's a good movie, not exceptional by any stretch, and if you want the best experience then be sure to kill all the lights!

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