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No consensus yet.
All Critics (4)
| Fresh (4)
| Rotten (0)
| DVD (1)
Uneven portmanteau horror, but when it works, it's very good.
May 5, 2004
| Rating: 3/5
Uneven portmanteau horror, but when it works, it's very good.
Great little horror anthology that twists and turns.
You know I really love these old horror movie titles, they are so damn cheesy and unscary, sound more like a Simpsons episo...wait a minute. The other thing is this title doesn't really relate to the actual movie, Dr. Terror (Cushing) is actually Dr. Schreck because as you all know Schreck is German for terror, so that adds up. But why is the film called house of horror? its set within a train carriage, minor quibble I know but it just stands out to me.
So as I just said the movie takes place on board an old sixties railway carriage where five men have all seemingly come together by chance. Little do they know that its actually cruel fate that has brought them together and Dr. Terror...errr Schreck, is gonna be dealing out some scythe related death (he's obviously Death, there is no gory scythe action). Each gentleman gets his fortune/future read via Schreck's tarot cards and each one is told what their future holds. Will it be all sunshine and happin...no its death.
Up first is a tale about an ancient Count who centuries before had been killed by the Dawson clan, and this same clan is now represented by our first train passenger in the present day...Mr Dawson. This long dead Count is now after revenge against the clan by trying to kill Mr Dawson, the last descendant. The Count is attempting this by coming back from the dead in the form of a werewolf. The twist in this tale is rather mundane if you ask me and I had to rewatch it to get the full gist of it, the plot also raises various questions as usual such as why the need for a werewolf? Nice spooky atmosphere throughout though.
The second tale is an amusing little take on the old silly idea of killer plants. Think of 'Day of the Triffids' mixed with 'Little Shop of Horrors' if you will. Alan Freeman returns home to his family only to find a large vine growing outside his house, when he tries to cut it down it becomes aggressive and ends up killing their dog. Hilariously he goes to the Ministry of Defence for help where he gets advice from James Bond actor Bernard Lee of all people. After some fantastically insightful and incisive dialog about plants they return to try and stop the vine only to end up trapped inside the house. Luckily they discover fire will scare off the plant (duh!) and Lee manages to escape. We are then left to believe the vine has worked out how to extinguish fire so...the world is doomed??
Easily the worst of the bunch yet at the same time easily the best for laughs, I wouldn't even call it a horror, its clearly science fiction and belongs in the Twilight Zone. Watching Lee acting all serious about these killers vines is nothing short of a pure sci-fi joygasm, its fecking hysterical. The scene where they are all pacing up and down in the Ministry of Defence, all decked out in their stale looking suits talking about plants and how to combat them is tremendous. Every bit of this vignette is so cliched and predictable right down to Lee lighting up a ciggy by the window causing the vines to back off...and guess what this tale is called...creeping vine of course.
Next up sees Roy Castle and his jazz band off to the West Indies for a gig. Whilst there he overhears some grade A tunage at a voodoo ceremony and decides to pinch it (as you do). When he plays the tune back in London a supernatural force comes after him...apparently. Again this is another dodgy episode which isn't really very interesting or scary, it feels more like an advert for the real jazz band shown playing. In the end it feels very patchy and not entirely well thought out.
In this movie Christopher Lee plays an arrogant snobby harsh art critic and this tale delivers his comeuppance. After being badly embarrassed by Michael Gough the artist Lee takes revenge by running him over with his car, in the incident Gough's hand is crushed and he loses it. As he cannot paint anymore Gough's character commits suicide, not long after Lee is haunted and tormented by the dead artists amputated hand. Standard fare this one but it works well with its revenge and retribution themes. The disembodied hand effects are pretty crummy truth be told and this does let the episode down but the class acts of Lee and Gough can't be ignored.
Lastly Donald Sutherland discovers a vampire is on the loose in his home town in the US. He seeks advice from a colleague only to then discover the vampire is his new French bride. His colleague tells Sutherland to kill the vampire but when the police show up to arrest Sutherland the colleague denies everything. The twist ending here is pretty obvious really and also pretty lame. Without spoiling anything the twist goes against basic vampire lore and you're left wondering how, plus the effects for the vampire transformation are dreadful but I guess this is an old film on an average budget.
So once again the selection of ghoulish tales is pretty mediocre I think, the vampire and disembodied hand tales are quite good and eerie. The werewolf tale doesn't really make much sense, the voodoo tale with Roy Castle feels too much like a comedy because of Castle and the vine sci-fi tale is utterly side-splitting which it isn't suppose to be. The other thing that didn't quite add up was the fact all these tales were suppose to be premonitions of each characters future and death, yet in the end they all get killed on board the train in a twist ending that has been used before in a few horror anthologies. So what was the point of all these future predictions about their untimely deaths when none of it was actually gonna happen anyway.
I also felt sorry for all the characters in this anthology, in most of these films the characters are bad people in one way or another getting their comeuppances. This time the characters are all a bunch of nice polite chaps that don't appear to have done anything wrong and have had the misfortune to fall afoul of the Grim Reaper (accept for Lee). So I found myself asking why these nice guys are getting crapped on...I guess they're just unlucky, not necessarily deserving of death but just unlucky, shit happens and the Reaper merely reaps, just doing his job.
In the end this is a solid anthology with an uneven mix of horror tales, in all honesty the one thing that keeps this films head above the water is its cast. You can't get much more epic than this roster...Cushing, Lee, Sutherland, Bernard Lee, Freeman, Gough and Castle. The fact you have Cushing alongside Lee is enough to get any classic Horror fanboy excited. Personally I would see this for the killer vine sci-fi episode, so bad its good.
Okay, it's not really a house. It's a train. Even so, it's good, old-fashioned, Hammer-ish, British Horror.
Nice anthology film from Amicus.
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