Archive for the ‘haunted houses’ Tag

The House That Dripped Blood (1971)   1 comment

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An English country house provides the setting for four Robert Bloch tales in the Amicus anthology film, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD.  A.J. Stoker (John Bryans) explains to Detective Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) that the murders the detective wants to solve stem from an evil which dwells in the walls of the cottage.  To prove his theory to the incredulous police officer, he tells four stories.

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“It’s move-in ready.”

“Method for Murder” stars Denholm Elliott as Charles Hillyer, an author of murder mysteries who needs the peace and quiet of a country house to write.  He and his wife, Alice (Joanna Dunham) move into the house so Charles can finish his book.  Charles loves the house from the beginning.  With bookshelves swollen with Edgar Allen Poe books and gothic bric-a-brac, he thinks the house will be the perfect cure for his writer’s block.  He’s right.  Soon, Charles’ creative juices flow and he creates a crazed killer to perform his literary evil deeds.  When Charles thinks he sees this madman around his house, things go off the rails a bit.  Elliott and Dunham play well together and the direction by Peter Duffell moves it along smartly.

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“It slices AND dices?”

You know when you go into a rural wax museum and see a figure who looks like your ex?  Me neither.  Philip Grayson (Peter Cushing) has worked hard all his life and amassed enough to live out the rest of it comfortably.  He sees the house as a quiet spot where he can read and think.  While strolling through the nearby village, Grayson sees a sign for Jacquelin’s Museum of Horror.  Charmed by the thought of such a place out in the country, Grayson enters the shop.  Unfortunately, all is not as it seems in the quaint museum.  “Waxworks” also stars Joss Ackland as Neville, Grayson’s old friend, who also wanders into the shop.  The two men become fixated on what they find there.  They probably should have gone into the tea shop instead.

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“I could’ve had a V-8.”

Christopher Lee looks sufficiently tweedy in “Sweets to the Sweet”.  He plays John Reid, a successful businessman who moves out to the country house with his daughter, Jane (Chloe Franks).  He doesn’t want to send the shy, troubled girl to school so he hires a private tutor, Ann Norton (Nyree Dawn Porter) to teach her at home.  The teacher and child develop a bond almost immediately and Ann begins to wonder why Reid wants to keep Jane so isolated.  The closer teacher and student get, the farther apart Reid and his daughter become.  What’s the secret causing such tension?  I’ll never tell.

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“You disgust me.”

In “The Cloak”, Jon Pertwee plays Paul Henderson, a conceited movie star on the decline.  Forced to appear in a low-budget vampire film, Henderson complains about everything from the script to the wardrobe.  To introduce some authenticity into his role, Henderson heads to a costume shop and buys an old cloak.  As soon as he puts it on, Henderson discovers the cloak is more than just a costume.  Ingrid Pitt also stars in this fun take on the horror film business.  There’s also a cool in-joke.  In an obvious reference to Christopher Lee, Henderson says he wants to play a vampire “…like Bela Lugosi, not this new fella.”  I smiled all through The Cloak.  The whole cast, including Geoffrey Bayldon and an uncredited Joanna Lumley, worked well together.

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“I’m telling you that director’s a Dalek.”

The writing, cast, and atmosphere in THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD keep you entertained and thinking.  Fun flick.

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haunty

 

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The Innocents (1961) 31 Days of Horror   2 comments

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Michael Redgrave hires Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) to act as governess to two lonely children on a sprawling estate in the English countryside. Kerr bonds instantly with the little girl, Flora (Pamela Franklin) and her strangely sophisticated brother Miles (Martin Stephens). The mansion and grounds are beautiful and Miss Giddens adores children so it’s like Mary Poppins, right? Wrong. As time goes on the loneliness of the manor and Miss Giddens’ repressed nature play tricks with her mind…or do they? Is Miss Giddens losing her grip on reality or are the images of the children’s dead governess and her lover real?

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The Innocents, based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James and directed by Jack Clayton (Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Great Gatsby) blurs the lines between reality and imagination. Is Giddens’ repressed spinster a source of salvation or doom? Are the children innocent and imaginative or conniving and evil? Filmed by director of photography Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man, Dune) in glorious black and white, The Innocents plays with perception and perspective. Images thrust into the foreground catch your eye, then recede as a shadowy form in the background gains clarity.

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If you turned off the sound, which adds an eerie aspect as well, you could still watch and enjoy the film’s spooky atmosphere. Wonderful performances by Deborah Kerr, Franklin, an underused Michael Redgrave, and the über creepy Martin Stephens of Village of the Damned fame make this a top-notch psychological horror film on the same plane as The Haunting. The Innocents just made it onto my yearly Halloween watch list. Terrific film.

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I wrote this for the @cinemashame 31 Days of Horror Shame-a-thon. Check out @thirtyhertzrumble.com for more eerie reviews. I am @echidnabot on twitter.

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Poltergeist (1982) 31 Days of Horror: Terror-Thon at the Somerville Theatre   Leave a comment

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JoBeth Williams and her husband Craig T. Nelson live an idyllic life. They love each other and their three children and live a comfortable, middle-class life in a suburban subdivision in California. So one day, their youngest daughter, the adorable Heather O’Rourke, gets swallowed up by the television. Uh huh. They call a team of parapsychologists (like you do) led by the wonderful Beatrice Straight, to investigate and soon discover a weird spectral world hanging around their staircase.

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It sounds too silly to work, but the cast which also includes James Karen, and the cooler than cool Zelda Rubinstein makes you believe it. The script, written by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor brings the characters to life and gives them great stuff to work with. I’ve seen this film many times and the dialogue and characters never get old for me. They’re too real. I buy into the whole thing. These people are really a family and they’re desperate to believe these spiritual specialists can save their little girl.

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The ghost hunters’ earnest beliefs and their sympathy for the beleaguered family makes the whole thing work. Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Salem’s Lot) directed Poltergeist wonderfully as a suburban dream turned nightmare. He also it with a sense of humor and some real heart. imdb lists 105 people from Industrial Light and Magic for the visual effects credit. I have no doubt of this. The effects are spectacular. Ghosts, skeletons, and demonic forces run amok and are truly frightening. Seeing Poltergeist in the theatre allowed me to notice something else. The sets look right. The little details ring true even to the wallpaper swatch books leaning against the master bedroom wall. I’ve seldom seen this film on any top ten lists and I’m not sure why. It’s a real gem.

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Clowns are never a good idea.

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The Haunting (1963)   Leave a comment

The Haunting poster

Based on The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and written for the screen by Nelson Gidding (Andromeda Strain, Odds Against Tomorrow) The Haunting tells the story of a disparate group brought together in a long unoccupied New England mansion by Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) to discover whether or not spooks reside there. The actual house was Ettington Hall in Warwickshire, England and is now the Ettington Park Hotel for those who dare to stay there. Anyway, the house has seen its share of mysterious deaths and weird occupants over the years and the locals won’t go near it. Markway’s archaeologist/parapsychologist wants to prove places can retain the spirits of people and their actions and proposes an experiment. He and a hand-picked group of people with histories of psychic ability will inhabit the manse, study its original owners, the late and somewhat sadistic Hugh Crain and family, and report any ghostly happenings thus justifying Markway’s career choice to his conservative family and possibly securing him a government grant.
Markway’s serious and academic demeanor lends the expedition gravitas and makes the coming events seem that much more real. Julie Harris as the put upon Eleanor Lance gives a terrific performance. Her character narrates the film and her interior dialogue delves into her thoughts without being overly expository. Claire Bloom as Theo, the clairvoyant, gives a layered performance which could easily have descended to mere snarkiness, but shows some real vulnerability and empathy. Russ Tamblyn, as Luke, a playboy related to the wealthy owner of the house, goes along to protect the house from damage, both physical and moral. The owners hold little stock in Markway’s spiritual phenomena. Tamblyn surprised me with the humor, subtlety, and believability of his acting.
Together this motley crew of paranormal researchers begin what they think will be a painless week in a great house. Needless to say, Hill House holds many secrets and, as Eleanor points out, “This house. You have to watch it every minute.”
The Haunting’s main attraction, its cinematography by Davis Boulton (Brighton Rock, Night Train to Munich) gives the house a sinister quality. Gorgeous angles and ominous shadows abound and the direction by the always fantastic Robert Wise fills each scene with a sense of doom. After each frightening encounter, the director cuts to an odd angled shot of Hill House’s exterior, letting the viewer know the house is always watching.
I love The Haunting. It’s one of my favorite films of any kind and you can’t beat it for atmosphere. If you’re looking for a literate, atmosperic haunted house film done in beautiful black and white, pop some corn and watch The Haunting.

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