31 Horror Movies in 31 Days- The Legend of Hell House (1973)

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With extreme close-ups for all the coverage and an overload of Dutch angles, director John Hough should be drawn and quartered for stylistic heresy. The Belasto House is described as the “Mount of Haunted Houses” which is a lofty claim for the film which ultimately turns out to be an overhyped proclamation.

From the gothic manor to the enshrouding fog surrounding it, this film was clearly the fountainhead of inspiration for Edgar Wright’s faux “Don’t” trailer. The friction between a physicist and a glut of clairvoyants is the impetus for a myriad of mistrust among the group. The phonograph recording of the house’s “host” is a creepy Easter Egg. The frequent time stamps seem rather frivolous unless the film was accumulating in race-against-the-clock intensity.

Roddy McDowell can always be requisitioned for lending a voice of sobriety to otherwise cauterizing circumstances. He delivers a monologue about the former owner’s history of “bestiality, vampirism, necrophilia…” with understated savoir-faire about the atrocities. When a medium channels the aforementioned owner in a bass rumble, the effect is pretty flaccid.

When an invisible entity tosses the sheets off a bed, one of the psychics rebuffs them with the deflating line “Very clever. If you’re so clever, why are you still a prisoner in this house?” If the characters aren’t terrified, why should the audience? Same goes for a scene where misty ectoplasm emanates from fingers into a jar. It’s too academic and studious to be spooky.

Rating: 2.25 out of 5

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