I have 469 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? The Legend of Hell House (1973)
What’s it rated? Unrated for stodgy British behavior, ghost fuckin’ and a cat attack for the ages.
Did people make it? Written by Richard “Fucking” Matheson. Directed by John Hough. Acted by Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill, Gale Hunnicutt, Roland Culver, Peter Bowles and Michael Gough.
What’s it like in one sentence? The Haunting of Hill House meets Roddy McDowall?
Why did you watch it? Chewers prunetracy and Seti made it sound too good to pass up.
What’s it about in one paragraph? A mental medium, a physical medium, a physicist and his wife walk into a haunted house with a week to prove the existence of life after death. As the days wear on, shit becomes pretty real and the psychic torment unleashed by the house becomes readily apparent and a little too much to stay sane during. Will any of the guests of Hill House make it out alive, or will Roddy McDowall chew up so much scenery that it creates a vacuum through time and space, killing everyone?
Play or remove from my queue? Play them shits most definitely. By the sheer force of acting, filmatism, score, absolutely batshit plot developments and ghost rape, this film demands to be seen by anyone unlucky enough to not have had it up inside their lives already. I never found myself scared, but I did get good and creeped out once and I might have possibly fallen in love with an actress named Pamela Franklin. I’ve never seen her in anything before that I can recall, but she’s plucky and sexy in an awkwardly uncomfortable sort of way and I’m going to watch And Soon The Darkness just for her after all of you leave. The part that creeped me out was when everyone runs into Miss Franklin’s room after hearing her get ghost raped (you know, I’m not entirely sure she was raped. It started off consensual, but then turned ugly when the ghost got a bit grabby and scrapey and pokey. Either way, it’s unpleasant and might cause Miss Franklin’s character to have some intimacy issues from now on). Roddy rolls her over to see if she’s okay after seeing all of the claw marks on her back and, as soon as she sees him, she starts laughing uncontrollably all wide eyed and Post Traumatic Stress-y. It was really hard to see my Pamela that way.
The score is kind of my favorite thing about the movie (aside from the tubular filmmaking skills on display by John Hough) and sets such an eerie tone that the film could have been about a wool convention and I still would have been pulling fistfuls of beard out by the end. The music is by Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson of Electraphon Ltd. and is really reminded me of the score for Ravenous by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman. Derbyshire did music for Doctor Who for 15 years while Hodgson is credited as “special sound” on 295 episodes of Who over thirty years. I guess my biggest question would be if the special sound he did was that of the Tardis and, if it was, does he know I love him?
John Hough directs the shit out of this movie. There are a couple low to the ground shots of a black cat that are filmed with more style and grace than anything I’ve seen in a horror movie for years. The angles and lighting and use of fog and darkness make this one of the more atmospheric thrillers I’ve ever seen and knowing that Hough went on to direct not only Dirty Mary Crazy Larry but also Escape to Witch Mountain makes him a director whose filmography I’m going to stuff myself with over the coming weeks. I’m going to choke on The Watcher in the Woods and Howling 4 and anything else I can get my hands on including, hopefully, American Gothic (the movie, not the show), which I remember made me cry when I was a kid because it scared me so much (so did Nightmare on Elm Street 3). John Hough and I have a date with history.
The batshit ending also kind of made the film for me and I have to run it by you guys to make sure I understand everything correctly. Roddy McDowall cures the house of evil by directly talking to the spirit source of the bad sauce (the previous and only owner of the house, Emeric Belasco) and saying “I bet you never left this house because you’re a shorty short short who was waaaay into kinky sex and Hot Topic-like behavior. Hahahahhahahah. Fag.” He makes fun of Belasco and Belasco is all ” Arrrrgggggg, my secret is uncovered that I was a midget with fake legs, now I can go into the liiiiiiight,” and then he did. That happened, right? If I understand that correctly then this movie wins and makes me want to go read the novel by Richard Matheson as soon as I learn to read good.
Do you have a favorite line? After the David Warner-ish physicist realizes he was wrong about what was haunting the house and it’s about to fuck his face off he says “I do not accept this!” Then I laughed while he screamed. There might be something wrong with me.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? In America this film was initially rated PG while in the UK it got an X rating. I’m not sure if Rated X means the same thing there as it does here, but I’m pretty sure that’s a little harsh. Yeah, they talk about cannibalism and bestiality and blood orgy’s, but at its worst this movie has a dead cat and some side boob.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Burnt Offerings (Karen Black and Oliver Reed!! I must needs watch more movies), The Evictors (Vic Morrow and Michael Parks VS. southern evil???? Where the fuck has this movie been my whole life?), House on Haunted Hill (the movie I always confused Hell House for being a remake of), Audrey Rose (Been meaning to see this, but never have) and The House Where Evil Dwells (Eddie Albert and Marsha Mason VS. Japanese ghosts?? Man, I really haven’t seen shit for movies, I guess).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? This one feels like one of a kind. I’m not really too familiar with the classic haunted house movies but this one ensured for me that I will be by next Halloween. I’d say if you like this then you’ll like other haunted house films from the ’70’s and that we should watch them together. Like just do horror movies from the ’70’s from now on or something.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 2.8
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 3.7
Any last thoughts? I haven’t read Hell House or The Haunting of Hill House, so I can’t say what is cribbed from what, but Hell House was a hoot and has put me in the mood for more films like this. If you haven’t seen Legend of Hell House and have a good sense of wacky then get on this like it’s something worth getting on top of. It’s worth it for the cat attack alone. Oh, and lovely Miss Franklin.
Did you watch anything else this week? I watched Transformers 3 again which (while feeling endless) is still a schload of fun. I also finally finished Season 4 of Breaking Bad and am now keenly aware that we’re living in a Golden Age of television.
Next Week? More horror. The Evictors? Hour of the Wolf? Prey? Dead & Buried? Night of the Comet?