Sunday, 28 April 2013

5 Films about Houses of Horror

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

Every neighbourhood has them, a house that has been boarded up and has a scary reputation to it's name.  Neighbourhood tales of strange families or weird people that have lived in these houses, that never came out during the day or made bizarre sounds from their basements that could never be explained.  The kind of house where local kids knew to walk or peddle their bikes faster to get by or would dare their friends to ring the bell to see if you were chicken.  Everybody has passed by these houses, wondered about the rumors and may have even heard of someone disappearing from these houses of horrors.

Here 5 Films about Houses of Horrors:

5. The House of Seven Corpses (1974) - Director Eric Hartman is making a movie about a family that died in a creepy old house.  All seven members of the family were killed in some hideous way, which was somehow tied to their occult practices and Hartman wants to recreate it in his zombie movie.  Luckily, David, Hartman's assisstant was able to secure the location of the real house and everything is running smooth with the exception of the caretaker, Edgar ruining shots by interrupting because the scene is not acurate and his endless tours of the house.  While on one of these tours, David finds a old book on witchcraft and suggests Hartman use some of the incantations in the film, to give it a real taste of authenticity.  So in during the next scene, Hartman gets his leading lady, Gayle to really sell some of the lines David has found in the book.  Unfortunately, this raises a zombie, who is looking to feed on the souls of the living.  Can Hartman save his cast and crew from the undead and still keep his film under budget or is he doomed to be another victim in the house of the 7 corpses?
  The opening montage is pretty killer, it has the 7 murders of the original people in the house and the special effects crew did a good job on them.  I was also excited to see that John Carradine and John Ireland were in this and even though Carradine's role isn't huge, he still one of the only highlights for this film.  However, once the opening credits are over the film seems to slow down and drag.  There are some scenes that aren't necessary, like Carradine as the caretaker Edgar, explaining everything we just saw in the montage and them actually filming things with the exception of the scene for the incantation.  I think that the script could have been tightened up.  Also, the zombie shows up late in the film and when he does, his work is fast and done off camera and that would have been more interesting to see then some of the earlier scenes.  The ending is a little confusing and somewhat acceptable if you really stretch your imagination.  It's only 90 minutes but it feels much longer and you should only visit this house if you have extra time.  Cannot find a trailer of here's a clip.

4. House On The Edge of the Park (1980) - On the way home from a disco, Alex runs a young lady off the road and into a deserted park.  When she turns down his advances for love, he rape/strangles her and the steals her locket as a trophy.
  A few weeks later, Alex is working at his garage/parking lot and his dim friend Ricky runs in excited because he's finally going to go dancing in the club with his friend Alex.  Alex tells him that he needs to chill out and they're just about on their way to party.  As they are leaving a car pulls up and young couple, Tom and Lisa get out and ask Alex to look at their car because it's causing them some issues and making a funny sound.  Alex tells them that he's sorry and to bring it back tomorrow but Ricky, wanting to please Alex, says that he can look at it.  Tom pops the hood and Ricky starts looking for the issue.  Lisa tells Alex that they are going to a party with a few friends and they must get going soon because some of their friends are waiting.  Ricky fixes the car quickly and Alex refuses to take money but asks if they can go to the party with them in return for the work.  Tom and Lisa agree and they all head up to the cabin.
  When they get to the cabin, they are greeted by Tom and Lisa's friends, Howard, Gloria and Glenda, who offer them some drinks and turn on the music.  The upscale crowd are pleased to have some working class people to mingle with and right away Gloria starts dancing with Ricky.  This eventually turns into Ricky doing a strip tease while the yuppies egg him on, but Alex puts a stop to it and tells Ricky that they're making him look like an asshole.  Tom invites everyone to a game of poker and Ricky joins in with Howard and Glenda.  Gloria watches the game and Lisa decides to take a shower?  So, Alex follows her upstairs and helps her scrub herself, but not for long Lisa leaves him in the shower holding the soap.
  Frustrated Alex goes back downstairs and sees that Ricky is losing all of his money and these richies are making an ass out of him.  Fed up, Alex pulls a straight razor on everybody and forces them to play one more hand.  Ricky wins all of the money and then Tom and Howard attack Alex to disarm him.  Unfortunately, Alex gets the better of them and has Howard tied up and beats Tom senselessly.  Alex gives Ricky a bottle to use as a club and now this is Alex's type of party.  Can anyone of the party people stop Alex or are they all going to all victim to his sadistic rape fantasies?
  Director Ruggero Deodata (Cannibal Holocaust, Cut and Run) shot this in three weeks on a very limited budget and you can tell.  Although a good story with a terrific ending, the picture seems rushed and drags in areas that could have been better if given time to shoot.  David Hess (RIP) (Last House on the Left, Swamp Thing) brings the evil into the Alex character, like only David Hess can. Similar to the Krug character, Alex can be just as charming as he is dangerous.  The film is also ugly in the same way Last House on the Left is, and feels more like a sleazy sex film but this is where the terror is found.  You know what kind of person Alex is and what he's capable of, so you fear for the party guests.  There isn't a huge body count but there are some intense bloody scenes. The pacing is slow, the ending is good and if you like Deodata's work then you might want to look this one up.

3. The Old Dark House (1932) - It's a dark stormy night and the Wavertons, Philip and Margaret and their friend, Penderel are traveling across the back roads of Wales.  After narrowly avoiding a landslide the trio seek shelter in a, you guessed it, old dark house.  After banging on the door a number of times, it is finally answered by a the bearded mute caretaker named Morgan.  Luckily, the brother of the home owner, Horace Femm as well and invites them in.  The trio begs Horace if they can stay the night and he tells them, they probably can if his sister, Rebecca Femm allows them.  She comes downstairs and although she is almost deaf and old as the hills, she is still a spitfire.  After some humming and hawing she agrees to let them stay but there's no beds!  Rebecca takes Margaret upstairs to change and tells her some of the horrible going ons at the house.  Downstairs Horace, also tells the gentlemen of some tales about the creepy house.  Then after worrying their guests, it's time for dinner!  During dinner there is another large bang on the door and in come some more weary travelers, Sir William Porterhouse and his lady friend Gladys, the dancer.  The Femm's invite them to stay the night until the storm clears.
That night, mysterious things begin to happen and members of parties start disappearing.  Can the guests make it through the night in the Femm house or would the storm have been the safer choice to make?
  I really enjoyed The Old Dark House and unlike director James Whale earlier Frankenstein, this is a horror/comedy but still creepy none the less.  Boris Karloff shows up again as Morgan the caretaker, in full make up and still doesn't get to speak, which is humerous because Whale doesn't let him speak until he plays the Mummy.  Melvyn Douglas (The Changeling, The Tenant) is fantastic in this as the wisecracking bachelor and the Charles Laughton makes his first "Hollywood" film as the playboy with the heart of gold, Sir William Porterhouse.  The real star though is Ernest Thesiger, who plays Horace Femm.  He has such a creepy look to him and he shows such a range of emotions throughout this film, that I think he's quite brilliant and rather underrated as an actor.  The writing is sharp in that early film, quick back and forth way.  The banter sounds so natural, with so many good quips, puns and amusing insults, that it's sad to think that we've lost this kind of humour that is so clever over the years of cinema. There isn't a huge body count or a bunch of bloody scenes, but the horror comes from 5 strangers out of their elements and needing help to survive a terrible storm from a very peculiar family.  If you like old movies or looking into some classic horror then you'd enjoy this. Couldn't find a trailer, so here's a clip.

2. Legend of Hell House (1973) -Eccentric millionaire, Mr. Duetsch hires leading physicist, Dr. Lionel Barret to head up an investigation into whether or not there is life after death. Easy!  Mr. Duetsch is sending Dr. Barrett to the infamous Hell House with two other renowned psychics, Florence Tanner, a mental medium and Ben Fischer, a physical medium and the only surviving member of a previous expedition into Hell House.  Barrett has a week to come up with definitive proof or he will not be paid.
  The team arrives and Barrett's wife, Ann decides that she will join the team in their adventure in Hell House.  Once inside, Fischer explains that the house was owned by a horrible person named, Emeric Belasco, a six foot "Roaring Giant" of a man who used his wealth to humilated people and host perverse parties of the body and soul.  Fischer goes on to explain that, Hell House is the "Mount Everest" of haunted houses and that there are a number of spirits that have stayed in the house due to Belasco's twisted desires.
  The first night they settle in and everything seems okay but the next day, Florence does a reading and has an encounter with a boy spirit, who claims to be Belasco's son, Daniel.  The spirit even takes over her body and speaks through her telling them all to leave.  They do not heed the warning and they stay, but later on Dr. Barrett is attacked and almost killed by a poltergeist phenomenon.  Has this team bitten off more than they can chew and is Fischer going to be the only one to survive this investigation again or can they unlock the secret of the house and finally allow the soul of Belasco to rest?
  This was a excellent film and I would almost put it right up there with Poltergeist.  Almost.  I wasn't that crazy about the ending and thought it was a bit anticlimactic.  Which is disappointing because the ghost in the house is pretty evil and there are some pretty decent special effects in this movie.  The cast is great as well, Roddy MacDowell (Planet of the Apes, Fright Night) takes off his ape make up and plays Ben Fischer, Pamela Franklin (The Innocents, Satan's School For Girls) is excellent as Miss Tanner and Clive Revill (Empire Strikes Back) as Dr. Barrett.  Scary film with lots of good twists and turns, that should keep you up at night after you see it. 

1. House of 1000 Corpses (2003) - A group of friends, Jerry, Bill, Mary and Denise are travelling across country and writing a book on interesting roadside attractions.  When they come across Captain Spaulding's Museum of Monster's and Madmen, they are in heaven!  Owned and operated by a grumpy man dressed as a clown, Captain Spaulding gives them a jokingly hard time and lets them in on a local legend called Dr. Satan.  He even gives them a map to visit the tree where he was this ruthless maniac was hanged.  After going through the Murder Ride, which is an old time carnival ride that displays serial killers throughout the ages, Jerry is super excited to visit the hanging tree of Dr. Satan.  So, the gang load into the car and hit the road in the pouring rain but before they go, Denise calls her father, just to let him know where she is and they should be home soon.  On the way there, they pick up a gorgeous hithhiker, named Baby who tells them that she knows exactly where the Dr. Satan tree is and she can lead them right to it.  Unfortunately, they get a flat but that's ok, cuz Baby's house is close and she can have her brother Rufus fix their tire.  So they head to Baby's house and when they get there, Baby lets them know that she nailed all the dolls to the wall on the outside of the house.  Weird, but okay, they go in and are greeted by, Mother Firefly, an aged beauty who still seems to enjoy young men.  Mother Firefly invites them all to dinner and the gang slowly meets the rest of the family, like Tiny, who's father burned him terribly when he was a baby, Grandpa Hugo and the madman who seems to be running the house Otis.  After dinner, the family puts on a show for their guests and Baby sings a song.  During the song, Baby is a little too flirtatious with Bill and makes Mary jealous and the ladies start to fight. Catfight!  Bill and Jerry break them up just in time because Rufus has go the tire fixed.  Unfortunately, when the gang tries to leave Otis and the family attack and kidnap them for their own sadistic pleasures.  Will anyone escape this house of horrors or will they be victims number 1,001, 1,002...?
For a first film, director Rob Zombie does an incredible job here.  You can really tell that he loves the genre of horror that he's working with.  Although usually compared to obviously Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Hills Have Eyes, I think it has a real Spider Baby feel to it. Spider Baby has a more playful fun maniac family feeling and there isn't really any humour in either Massacre or Hills.  Sid Haig (Spider Baby, Devil's Rejects) is brilliant as Captain Spaulding and I wish there was more of him in this and Bill Mosely is pretty killer as Otis.  Actually, Zombie puts together an interesting group of horror characters with a fantastic cast of notable and now notable names like Rainn Wilson, Karen Black, Walter Goggins, Chris Hardwick and an assortment of others who you've seen in countless horror films over the years. Yes, there are some gruesome scenes and there is some bizarre shit going on but the story is decent, the ending makes sense and there is plenty of blood for everybody.  Definitely a must see and I'm sad it took me so long to see it.

So the next time you go by that house, remember these films because this is what you may find there in a deserted cellar or a locked up attic.  However, if that dare is too much for you to turn down, then at least bring an axe when you sneak in or ring the doorbell because then you might give you a fighting chance.

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