This might be the coziest horror movie you will ever see. The House That Dripped Blood takes place in the English countryside, in a beautiful cottage. It is an anthology film, with four different stories presented. Each have two things in common: the house in question and the untimely and bizarre fates of the person who purchased it. Though the title is literally dripping with images of gore and all sorts of violence, there is remarkably little blood on screen, if any. What we have here is an exercise in film marketing. Director John Duffell was even opposed to the title because it does not reflect the actual product. The film relies on terrific acting and a good story rather than gore to entertain. In fact, the film was originally passed with a grade acceptable for all audiences. The studio requested an X rating to give it a more violent allure. It is a similar situation to the film I previously reviewed: Horror Hotel (1960).
All that nonsense aside, The House That Dripped Blood is a great film. It actually became an instant favorite of mine. The first story stars Indiana Jones stalwart Denholm Elliot as a crime novelist who becomes a victim of his own imagination. The second has Peter Cushing and his friend drawn to a beautiful and mysterious wax figure in the local horror museum, but with a price heavier than the cost of admission. Of course, Christopher Lee’s tale comes next, where he and actress Nyree Dawn Porter steal the show as a father and private tutor to a little girl where an apparent evil is about the spin out of control in the form of witchcraft which resides in her. Lastly, future Doctor Who star John Pertwee is an aging and stuck-up horror actor whose dealings with a real life vampire help his own on-screen persona and blur the line between his work and reality.
Each segment has its moments of brilliance, and none drag on too much. They are succinct enough to keep our attention yet have the length to develop a story with strong characterization. The weakest installment might be the fourth, even though it’s not bad at all. Titled “The Cloak”, it acts as a parody of itself as well as a farewell to the old days of horror cinema. Pertwee makes several quips about how the times are changing, and the genre is changing with it. He also makes an inside joke, when he says how much he loves the Dracula movies, “but the one with Bela Lugosi, not this new guy”, of course referring to co-star and Hammer Studios’ Dracula actor, Christopher Lee.
This one gets an 8 out of 10 from me. This is an anthology horror movie done right, and made the English way. Ironically, the final segment proved to be correct in foresight. Movies like this were fading fast, becoming all the more reliant on blood and violence over strong acting and writing. Perhaps it has aged in that regard, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
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