LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE
Review by Ed Nguyen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson
Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicutt
Director: John Hough
Audio: DTS HD Mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2014
did he do to make this house so evil, Mr. Fischer?"
addiction, alcoholism, sadism, bestiality, mutilation, vampirism, necrophilia,
cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies.
Shall I go on?"
did it end?"
it had ended, we would not be here."
love a good scary movie, and the "haunted house" sub-genre has always
been my favorite sort of horror film. Done
correctly and with style, these films can be as frightening as the Robert Wise
classic The Haunting or the recent
Nicole Kidman film The Others.
But done with the usual Hollywood flair, utter garbage like 13
Ghosts or CGI-disasters such as the remake of The
Haunting are the typical results. Fortunately,
The Legend of Hell House (1973) is
done very correctly and remains to this day one of the most unsettling haunted
house films ever.
from the novel Hell House (whose author Richard Matheson also wrote the
screenplay), this British film presents a minimalist's approach to the ghost
story. We never actually see any
ghosts, yet we are constantly aware of their presence.
Psychological horror, rather than special effects, maintain this
illusion. If memory serves, the
actual house chosen for exterior shots was reputed to be haunted, a fact which
no doubt contributed immeasurably to the overall atmosphere of the film.
the house's first appearance in the film is an utterly chilling one.
At first, we see nothing but a heavy persistent fog.
So little light penetrates it that no shadows are cast.
The air is grey and stale, hardly stirring. Slowly, we perceive bars of an iron gate.
As we approach, the gates swing open silently, accompanied only by a
menacing beating on the soundtrack. Beyond
the gates, through the dense fog, a dark silhouette appears.
It looms above us, sharp spires and narrow towers extending skywards, a
visage so large that its edges are swallowed into the surrounding greyness.
It is the Belasco House, the film's Hell House.
sane guest, upon receiving such an invitation would wisely turn about and depart
most rapidly. But Belasco House has
been purchased by an eccentric British millionaire who seeks the answer to one
question - is there life after death? He
believes the answer lies in Belasco House, and to that end, he has employed
three persons to establish an answer...within the week.
The first person is Barrett (Revill), a confident parapsychologist, who
is accompanied by his wife. The
second is Florence Tanner (Franklin), a young mental medium.
The last is Fischer (McDowell), a physical medium who is the only
survivor of the previous but disastrous effort many years prior to solve the
mysteries of Belasco House. These
four characters are Belasco House's guests for the next five days, for better or
being a haunted house film, we know they are not alone.
The film employs unusual camera angles and lens to create a sense of
uneasiness, suggesting an unseen presence that silently observes the unwanted
houseguests. The hauntings are
slyly implied rather than graphically displayed, without the prevalent blood and
gore of modern horror films. Old
phonographs play by themselves. Shadows
dance along darkened walls. Chandeliers
swing as though swayed by unseen hands. Through
clever sound editing and eerie cinematography, the film maintains an
ever-increasing sense of dread and tension.
By resisting the temptation to display too much, the film encourages the
audience's mind and imagination to supply the terror.
It is a time-proven, old-school method, and it is chillingly effective in
as the saying goes, the old ways are still the best ways.
In this case, The Legend of Hell House easily tops its modern, CGI-crazed cousins
is a mostly clean offering from Anchor Bay...the colors are well-rendered and
the detail level is fairly strong throughout. A few darker scenes exhibit
touches of marks or spots from the age of the movie, but overall, a solid
is is a mostly clean offering from Anchor Bay...the colors are well-rendered and the detail level is fairly strong throughout. A few darker scenes exhibit touches of marks or spots from the age of the movie, but overall, a solid effort.
This Blu-ray offers only the original mono track, but it's quite effective...good uses of sinister music keep the atmosphere creepy, and the dynamic range is quite good for a film this old.
There is an interview with director John Hough, audio interview with Pamela Franklin, and a trailer.
Seeking an old-school horror film that really delivers the goods? Look no further! Belasco House awaits you! But be forewarned - The Legend of Hell House is a seriously scary film, so do not watch it alone at night if you are prone to nightmares!