Saturday, September 22, 2007
Wow! I don't know if it's because it was a dark, stormy night or because I was a little buzzed or just the fact that the storytelling was so serious and clinical - but this film actually scared me!!!
This 1973 horror classic is from John Hough, the same director of Disney's two WITCH MOUNTAIN flicks and Disney's Bette Davis thriller WATCHER IN THE WOODS (which is notorious for not having an ending) - so I expected a campy good time. What I didn't expect was great cinematography, pretty good acting...and some genuine chills. Totally a notch above BURNT OFFERINGS (also Bette Davis) and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR.
Set in England, the plot involves 4 people (a physicist, his wife, a mental medium and physical medium - wonder which kind Patricia Arquette is?) who spend a weekend in a haunted house - The Belasco House! Oddly this film takes place in late December, but no mention is made of Christmas or Boxing Day or whatever wintery holiday they celebrate in the UK.
Things start off slow, but once the Belasco ghosts start welcoming the visitors, it turns into quite a thrill ride. There's a great scene at dinner table, two amazingly dark and dirty scenes (for a PG-rated film) involving a phantom rape(!) of the female medium (played convincingly by Pamela Franklin) and demonic seduction of the other medium (the always fun-to-watch Roddy McDowall) by the doctor's sexy wife (the beautiful Gayle Hunnicutt). Don't get me wrong, there are some very funny over-the-top scenes too. One standout is when Franklin is attacked by a very persistant feral cat and the other when McDowall has a total shit fit. Keep your eyes peeled for a fun cameo by Michael Gough (Alfred the Butler from the 80s/90s BATMAN films).
There's some wacky stuff dealing with the doctor (Clive Revil) and this machine he invents that is supposed send poltergeists running for the hills and also some "cool for the 70s" special effects involving ectoplasm. All in all, a fun rental for the upcoming Halloween season.
So as far as Haunted House movies go (and there are plenty of them) - I'd put this one near the top of the list. There were enough "Huh?" moments for me to include it here. I'd give it an 8 out of 10.