Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January, Jules is at it again in March, treating us to a chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.
You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.
Starring: Frankie Avalon, Jill Haworth, Julian Barnes, Dennis Price, George Sewell
Director: Michael Armstrong
In a parallel universe somewhere, Tigon Films’ Haunted House Of Horror is an absolute classic and a massive influence on the horror genre that came after it.
The script wasn’t massively reworked half way through it, tedious subplots weren’t added to it, there was no reshoots, Boris Karloff was fit and nobody had the brainwave that you couldn’t possibly have Frankie Valli and David Bowie in the same film.
Sadly, that’s not our universe. None of that happened and we got left with a film that’s more curio than classic.
It’s 1968 and London is still swinging, but even the hippest young things can have an off night. When one of their parties turns out to be a duffer, a group of friends break into a nearby derelict house that’s supposedly haunted and has been abandoned since it was the site of a gruesome murder.
They lock themselves in and decide to hold a séance, but one of their group is brutally murdered. Realising nobody could have got in or out and that the killer must be one of them, the group decide to bury the body and say nothing.
Once the police get involved though, the friends decide they need to discover just who the killer is amongst them…
The debut feature of Michael Armstrong, both as a writer and director, Haunted House Of Horror had a lot of potential, but fell victim to the demands of American International, who released it Stateside and had a hefty stake in the production.
What’s left of Armstrong’s original vision is a taut, often shocking proto-slasher that’s beautifully shot at times, featuring a young cast that, for the most part, give a good account of themselves.
As the ringleader and ace face Chris, the top-billed Frankie Avalon isn’t challenged any more than he would have been playing one if his beach party heroes, since the character is pretty much the same, but that’s fine. He’s a cool American who’s a leading light of the social scene. Ideal casting really.
The supporting ensemble more then convince too, with 70s sitcom legend Richard O’Sullivan playing…well that guy that he always plays, but slightly more neurotic, while Julian Barnes is suitably disturbing and detached as the troubled Richard. You can only wonder what David Bowie would have done with this role though, especially if the ambiguous sexuality was allowed to be more overt.
For a supposed horror film, there’s just not enough actual horror in here to truly satisfy, but what there is leaves you hungry for more. Once you wade though the dull police procedural and older man affair tedium, Haunted House Of Horror certainly pushes some boundaries.
The murders themselves are fairly graphic for the time. There’s no open wounds, but the killer makes several blows on each victim as they twitch and spasm, spurring out ever increasing amounts of the old claret.
The house itself is gorgeously atmospheric, all dark corridors and weird angled shots adding a creeping sense of dread to the proceedings, while the regular bouts of sheer hysteria and panic the gang endure are utterly realistic and add weight to the grim situation.
There’s a lot to recommend here, but there would have been a whole lot more if Armstrong was allowed to make the film he wanted. A missed opportunity.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy