Here is the house you’re considering renting,
A beauteous country estate.
Feel free to explore, though I mustn’t forget
Some minor concerns to relate.
I’d humbly suggest to stay out of the den;
A strangling there once occurred.
And that closet is full of the clothes of a tenant
Who vanished with nary a word.
The master bedroom is a sticking point too,
We couldn’t get all the stains out.
And stay out of the basement; not one is alive
Who’s journeyed down there with a doubt.
What’s that? Oh, you think this is not the right house.
Perhaps that decision is best.
I hate to lose tenants; I’ve told you of four,
But I won’t even mention the rest.
MPAA rating: PG
Ever since I outgrew trick-or-treating, I haven’t really celebrated Halloween much, so while other bloggers have been dedicating all of October to horror films, I tend to keep my distance. However, because ‘tis the season, I’ll be reviewing three horror films leading up to Halloween. They’re from three different eras too, the first of which being the horror anthology The House That Dripped Blood. Doesn’t that sound charming?
Now with a title like The House That Dripped Blood, you might have certain expectations for this film, but honestly this has got to be one of the most blatant examples of cinematic false advertising ever. Yes, there’s a house, but throughout the whole film, there’s not one drop of blood. Not that I’m complaining since I try to steer clear of gore in general, but didn’t the producer think people might be disappointed when he replaced director Peter Duffell’s original title Death and the Maiden with the more lurid name?
As an anthology, the film is made up of four smaller stories, all involving new tenants of a foreboding country home. One involves a horror writer (Denholm Elliott) whose character seems to jump off the page; one is about a waxworks museum that lures in two men (Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland); one features Christopher Lee as a stern father who hires a teacher to look after his potentially dangerous daughter; and the last sees a horror movie star (Jon Pertwee, the third Doctor Who) obtain a vampire’s cloak. All of the stories are relatively well-told, with the first two clearly being the best for suspense, but there’s very little that this film does that has not been done better elsewhere. I don’t watch many horror films, and I could tell that.
The biggest issue I had was the focus on the house. The film’s frame story stresses the house as a constant in each tale, but the truth is that the house never seems that involved or important. The supernatural elements that cause each story often come from outside the home, making the house’s significance feel rather shoehorned in.
The House That Dripped Blood works best as a curiosity. We get to see a host of British thespians going through the horror movie motions, but elevating the material with their mere presence. The first story also felt significant as a possible partial inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. While the resolution goes off in a different direction, Denholm Elliott’s writer character seems to become more unhinged by the mysterious happenings in the house, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
The House That Dripped Blood is nothing overtly special, with four stories that often lapse into boredom before the “horrifying” climax, but for those who prefer horror that’s tame, mildly creepy, and very British, it’s a decent enough experience.
Best line: (Paul Henderson, the famous actor) “That’s what’s wrong with the present-day horror films. There’s no realism. Not like the old ones, the great ones. Frankenstein. Phantom of the Opera. Dracula – the one with Bela Lugosi, of course, not this new fellow.”
Rank: Honorable Mention
© 2016 S.G. Liput
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