“Halloween Twenty-Fifteen”: A Review of “The Legend of Hell House” (1973)

legend_of_hell_house“For the sake of your sanity, pray it isn’t true!” I’ll start off this review by addressing two things just within the poster itself: 1) I did, in fact, pray for my sanity many times during the viewing of this film, and 2) it isn’t true. It really isn’t. The Legend of Hell House does not come anywhere near to being the crazy, frightening production as depicted in its poster. Holy snoozefest, Batman! I actually kept track of how many times I yawned during the second half of this movie (six!) in order to stay awake. Part of me wishes I started counting from the beginning because then I would really have something to talk about. Just today I read an article on a prominent cinema website naming this one of the most underrated horror movies ever made. I was flabbergasted. Were we watching the same thing?

This is a brutally slow and boring movie. It is so elongated and lofty that I don’t know how the crew were able to stay awake in the editing room putting this together. I usually love-love-love British horror cinema from the 1970’s, and being a paranormal investigator myself, was drawn to the storyline about a team who has to spend a week inside “Hell House”. Its an old mansion where vicious ghosts reside, and have killed numerous investigators in the past. The only thing even mildly interesting about this film, for me, is to see what our hobby was like all those years ago. Their job is to prove or disprove whether or not the place is haunted. Okay, so the plot is a little more complicated than that, but it spends the first 90 minutes setting something up—a twist, if you will—only to take the last five minutes going “Ta-Da!” all while you’ll probably be writhing in agony screaming, “What?!?!” [Or, if you’re lucky, be sound asleep and not even realize it.]

Not that I could even come up with an explanation to spoil the ending for you, but I will stop right there just in case you do not want to heed my advice and waste your time on this flick. Initially excited to see Roddy McDowell in something other than Planet of the Apes, I was appalled to witness how awful his performance is, and how painful it is to watch. There was a point a few scenes in where I wished he just walked off-screen, donned an ape suit, and then continued on with the rest of the film addressing everyone as Dr. Zaius. At least that would have been entertaining. Also starring Pamela Franklin, Clive Revill, and Gayle Hunnicut. Directed by John Hough.

4 out of 10 stars.

More articles in this special “Halloween Twenty-Fifteen” column can be found here.

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