Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Psychobabble's 150 Essential Horror Movies: Addition 16

Every day this October, I'll be adding a film to Psychobabble's 120 Essential Horror Movies to bring the list up to 150. Today’s addition is:

83. The Legend of Hell House (1973- dir. John Hough)

In 1953, a squad of mentalists was slaughtered while investigating the haunted mansion known as Hell House, the former home of a fellow who allegedly dabbled in “drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, bestiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies.” Twenty years later, a deathbed-bound millionaire commissions another group to convene at Hell House to prove the existence of an afterlife. Based on a book by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the script, The Legend of Hell House is a lot less schlocky than its title suggests. The film owes much to that greatest of haunted house pictures, The Haunting, both in its premise and the way director John Hough’s active, disorienting camerawork makes Hell House into a character with as much personality as any of the mentalists. The house is a meaner entity than the ones in The Haunting or The Shining, at times physically attacking its inhabitants. Hough pulls off this dodgy concept cleverly, only lapsing into silliness occasionally, as when a housecat mounts an absurdly relentless attack. The ending is disappointingly trivial too, but taken as a whole, The Legend of Hell House neutralizes most criticisms with Hough’s brilliant camerawork, Matheson’s trademark wit, and an ace ensemble cast led by Roddy McDowell as the sole survivor of the 1953 excursion and Pamela Franklin as the most prodigious mentalist in the gang.  

See this piece in context as part of Psychobabble’s Essential Horror Movies of the 1970s here.
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