1973’s British production, The Legend of Hell House is a stylish, early 1970s horror movie that kind of surprised me. You see, I usually find 60’s and 70’s British horror to be boring… and mostly crap. With the exception of some (but not all) Hammer films. Well I am glad to say The Legend of Hell House is an exception to this.
The story is basically this: A millionaire, Mr. Deutsch hires a group of “specialists” to investigate a purported Haunted house, The Belasco House, in an effort to either prove or disprove life after death. The Belasco house had been the home of Emeric Belasco, a rumoured, evil giant of a man who reportedly held massive orgies in the home. Later, after the death of Belasco, people who entered the house either died or suffered insanity.
In the 1950s, a group that entered and tried to get to the bottom of the hauntings ended in tragedy. The only survivor, a 15 year old physical medium named Ben Fisher survived. Now, in 1974, Ben (played by Roddy McDowell), along with physicist Dr. Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill), his wife, Ann Barrett (Gayle Hunnicutt) and spiritual medium Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) make up the new team that was hired to investigate.
The fist night together in Belasco House, the group partakes in a séance (or sitting). During this sitting, Florence claims to be channel a spirit, and in a weird, manly voice warns and threatens the group, while physical objects around the room are shaken and moved without anyone touching them. While the group is shaken up, Dr. Barrett believes that there must be a scientific reason for the events.
As the days go by, Florence is visited by what appears to be several spirits, but most notably, one claiming to be Belasco’s son, asking to be released. These visits seem to end with Florence being physically attacked – even by an evil, determined black cat.
Florence isn’t the only one being targeted – they all are. Ann Barrett, becomes temporarily possessed while sleep walking and tries to engage Ben in sex. Ben, realizing it is the spirit talking and not really Ann, slaps her awake – she comes to and runs away. – A note: Ann is pretty hot – Ben must have used some serious will power here-. Also, during another sitting, Dr. Barrett is targeted by flying objects that are hurled in his direction seemingly by invisible hands. Dr. Barrett, though, is still convinced that this can be explained scientifically.
Barrett has a large piece of equipment delivered to the house that I think drains the ethereal energy of the house – Florence attempts to destroy the machine but fails. Barrett starts up his machine and gets to work. While they are doing so, Florence gets up and enters the chapel of the house… where tragedy befalls her. While this is happening, in the room with the machine, Dr. Barrett believes that the machine has done it’s job, and even Ben agrees, declaring the home “clear.” Well, almost immediately a bunch of crap happens and Dr. Barrett is killed. Ann and Ben enter the chapel, and find Florence dead. Ben, coming to a realization, hurls accusations at the spirit, belittling it, and soon they discover a hidden chamber… and the truth of the evil Emeric Belasco…
Well, as I stated at the beginning of this post, I generally find British horror from this time boring , but I enjoyed this quite a bit. It was an interesting story and the acting was good. Not a lot of gore, but that’s okay. Should you watch it? That’s completely up to you.
Check out the trailer below: