31 Days of Horror: Day 31- The Legend of Hell House

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Posted October 31, 2017 by Thomas James Juretus in Movies

Day 31, and we’ve arrived at the end of our dark cinematic journey. And what better way to end things than with a classic haunted house movie? Our Halloween title is the classic 1973 movie The Legend of Hell House, based on the tale by Richard Matheson and directed to near perfection by John Hough (American Gothic). A physicist and parapsychologist Dr. Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill) is approached by Rudolph Deutsch (Roland Culver) to find proof of life after death, and is sent to Hell House, the old Bellasco estate. Going in with Barrett is his wife, Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), a medium named Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), and the sole survivor of a previous trip to the house, Benjamin Fischer (Roddy McDowall). The four enter the house and plan to stay five days. Once in, the house knows they’re there, and they will need to solve the mystery of the house in order to survive.

This is an example of a haunted house movie done right. The special effects are minimal, but highly effective. The actors all are very convincing in their respective roles. A creepy atmosphere is maintained throughout, with us hearing voices and the use of different camera angles and lighting used to keep us off balance. The scene of dishes being ripped off the table is very well done, as is an attack on Florence by a cat. Just enough blood is used without being overly gory or resorting to the old “walls oozing with blood” trick. This is a film that builds its suspense on the performance of the actors as they each deal with the house’s haunts. Barrett tries to take a purely scientific approach to keep things grounded, but even that isn’t enough to hold back the terror. The film is beautifully shot as well, with the old mansion looking and feeling creepy. Matheson, in writing the script from his novel, toned certain things down to make the film more atmospheric, and that worked to the movie’s benefit. Everything here just comes together near perfectly, making this one of the best haunted house movies made. It’s available on Blu-ray for viewing. 9/10 stars

Thanks for going along on this journey! Happy Halloween!


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Thomas James Juretus