SEPTEMBER 8, 2010
It’s been a while since I’ve watched one of these 70s anthologies, so long that I wasn’t sure if I had already seen The House That Dripped Blood or not, since the titles tend to blend together in my head anyway. But hurrah! I hadn’t. I wonder how many others there are? Amicus seemed to be the only one making them regularly, and I have to be near the end of their “supply” by now. I know I have to see Vault Of Horror still.... what else?
Anyway, this one’s pretty good. The first and third stories are the best, and the wraparound is slightly more interesting than usual. I like that it’s the rare anthology that all takes place in the same universe, with each story focusing on an occupant of the titular house (which doesn’t drip blood, for the record). It’s not like Pulp Fiction or Trick R Treat; you can still watch each story as a standalone thing and not be lost, but it’s certainly more connected than Tales From The Darkside or whatever. So the wraparound is a cop telling an inspector about all of the strange cases that have occurred there, instead of the usual “I heard a story once...” or similar, non-personally-touched tales.
The first one is hilarious, because the story begins “A young couple moved in”, and the male is Denholm Elliott, who even then wasn’t exactly a young dude. It’s a traditional “Let’s drive a guy crazy so we can take his money” tale, but with a rare difference – the villain is scary as all hell! Elliott keeps seeing this “imaginary” strangler that he thought he invented for his book, and damned if it’s not a creepy sight every time:
Gah! The picture doesn't really do him justice, but even still, imagine seeing that dude in your house! Like I’ve mentioned before, the last thing I care about in a horror movie is whether or not it scares me, but I will admit this dude could conceivably give me nightmares, if I dreamt about anything besides being a particularly useless character on Prison Break or being way behind in my English class in high school. Also, it might be the first time I’ve seen Elliott in something where his stammer was part of the narrative and not just his character.
The 3rd one is the best, because it has Christopher Lee in a rare non-villain role and an evil child, which is pretty much the scientific formula for a successful anthology segment. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing a full length, or at least longer version of this story, because the time constraints (each tale is only 20 minutes) forces them to rush through some of the more interesting elements, like the fact that the kid’s mother was apparently evil too. Poor Lee. There’s also a quick shot of him reading "Lord of the Rings", which is possibly the first instance of a reverse meta-joke.
I’d especially like it to be longer since the other two stories are kind of forgettable, and the removal of one would increase the film’s overall fail/success ratio. The first one’s about yet another evil goddamn wax museum owner. I mean seriously, are there any non-sinister wax museum owners? I get that it’s a creepy locale, but why is the owner always the villain? Lots of horror movies take place in state parks, it’s not like Ranger Bob is always the killer. Can’t some folks stumble upon one and meet the kindly owner, and then get killed by some passing transient, just once? I can’t remember Waxwork, was the owner the villain there too? Anyway, Peter Cushing and Joss “Diplomatic immunity!" Ackland are a couple of buddies who both loved the same broad or something, I never quite understood the nature of their relationship to each other or the woman. Anyway they all end up dead. The connection to the house is pretty thin too; Cushing lives there but all of the action takes place in the wax museum.
The last one’s a little better, because it has some actual meta-humor concerning Lee. It takes place on the set of a horror movie (remember, this was back before every 3rd horror movie took place on the set of a horror movie), and the main actor bemoans current horror films and how he prefers the old stuff like Dracula, then points out he means Lugosi, “not this new fellow” (that would be Lee). Heh. But then he buys a magic cloak and it turns Hammer hottie Ingrid Pitt into a vampire. Yeah, and? I couldn’t help but wonder if this one was just an excuse to pad the running time or something, but at least the action takes place in the house, and it has a cool tie to the final wrap-around segment.
I also loved the closing shot of the movie, in which the cop who was telling the stories turns to the camera and explains that the house reflects the personality of the owner. Which got me thinking, what would happen to me if I moved in there? My personality is that of a wiseass who watches horror movies. Would I be killed by clichés and musical stings, or something? Or would I be ironically murdered by the weight of all my overlong (printed) reviews? That’d be funny. All 1500 reviews would probably be around 4000 pages (5000 if they include the two Rob Zombie Halloweens)... that would be enough to crush me if they fell on me, right? “If only I... hadn’t rambled so long... about the... Nightmare On Elm Street remake...” *dies* And scene.
The disc’s only extra is an interview with producer Max Rosenberg, who discusses how the project came to fruition and a bit about Amicus itself (“Amicus means friends... what are we going to call it? Enemies?”). It’s too brief to be of much use, but it’s better than nothing, and Mr. Rosenberg passed away not too long after it was shot, so it’s probably one of if not the last interview he gave. And given how poorly the DVD team rendered their menus, it’s surprising I could even find it – for some reason, whatever you highlight on any given menu screen is just crossed out, making it unreadable. Who the fuck greenlit this shit in the QA process?
So there you go. It’s not as good as Tales From The Crypt, but it’s better than many (House of the Dead, anyone?), and it’s nice to have the biggest stars in the stories instead of in the wrap-around segments, like a lot of them seem to (like From Beyond The Grave, which had Cushing in the wrap-arounds but apart from Donald Pleasence, no one in the stories was as interesting). Also, again, it has an evil child.
What say you?
P.S. Ordinarily I'd put the trailer here, but the only one available is from HMAD enemy IMACACI, who refuses to allow "his" trailers to be embedded. So fuck him. Here's a trailer for a Tommy Wiseau movie that takes its title from this film.