Monday, March 12, 2012
The Legend Of Hell House!
This early 70's offering is a movie I've been wanting to see for a long time. I never caught in the theaters and I've never before seen it on television, but as it's a Richard Matheson offering and I'm a big fan, I expected a really involving experience.
Alas that proved not to be the case.
The story revolves around four paranormal investigators trying to prove the existence of the afterlife and doing so by inspecting the most notorious haunted house in the world, a mansion dubbed "Hell House" by all. It seems this house was owned by a man named Belasco infamous for his sadistic and perverse activities and who disappeared after a particularly bloody debauchery. Some years earlier psychic investigators were run from the house crippled and insane and the house had been off limits since.
The movie gives us a couple, a physicist and his wife (the fetching Gayle Hunnicutt) who are out to eliminate the ghostly apparitions, a beautiful girl who is a medium, and another man (Roddy McDowell) who is also a medium who is the sole sane survivor of the earlier attempt to investigate the house. These four spend a week in the place and suffer a host of paranormal experiences as the story slowly unwinds.
That's the plot and you'd expect a story like that, especially one concocted by Matheson to be pretty scary. This one isn't, not in the least. I can't put my finger on what goes wrong, but the characters are all aloof and that hurts my ability to identify with them, and so care what happens to them. The spookery is pretty contrived, but that might be the limits of the day. Mostly I think it's the dry business-like manner which dominates the show. This usually is a plus for Matheson's stories, but it doesn't work here.
The girl medium (Pamela Franklin), a source and target of much of the paranormal activity seems to encounter something every ten minutes or so and screams long and loud each time. Sometimes the others respond, sometimes they don't. There is an introduction about half way through of a giant gizmo (looks like a Twilight Zone prop) brought in by the physicist (Clive Revill) which is supposed to drive out the spooks, but it looks like a lot of movie equipment of the time, a big imposing but not very convincing box.
The eventual payoff in the movie is underwhelming I must say and the motivation for the evil seems more than a tad contrived. I'll say little else as I don't want to spoil it. I'm easily frightened by movies of this type, and this one didn't send a chill down me once, not a single time. Disappointing.
I can't recommend this one save for those like me who want to sample everything the great Matheson produced. Maybe the novel is better. I need to read that now.