teenybuffalo (teenybuffalo) wrote,

Give them blood, blood, gallons of the stuff...

The House that Dripped Blood (1971).

One of the discs sent to me and Kestrell earlier in the summer by handful_ofdust.  An anthology horror film with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Denholm Elliott, Ingrid Pitt, and a bunch of people not as hot as the above.  Wildly uneven; I went into it not expecting it to be an anthology of four short films with a framing narrative.  That spoiled my enjoyment a little, because I kept waiting for the (very slight) first story to turn into a plot arc for the whole film.  Instead of this, the weaksauce protagonist died at the hands of a mad strangler fifteen minutes into the movie--SPOILER ALERT!--, and we started all over with a new set of characters.  Once I got over that, I rather liked the movie.

Denholm Elliott was wasted on the first storyline, and it also involved the usual idiot psychiatrist who burbles on about neuroses and tells the protagonist everything is only in his head, while supernatural horror unfolds around him.  We have remarked on this before, but mental health counselors in all genre fiction continue to be useless-to-actively-evil in everything I've ever read or watched.  I can't think of a single instance where a psychiatrist does anything useful in a horror setting.  OK, there's the doctor in John Bellairs' The Curse of the Blue Figurine, who takes the cursed ring off Johnny's finger just in time to prevent it from killing him, but that's a coincidence and the doctor was mostly there to scoff at ghosts and curses.  Why is this such a reliable cliche?  Are shrinks just useful as the token smartassed skeptic/rationalist?  Or are we all sick of armchair psychoanalysts telling us that we write horror because we weren't hugged enough as kids?

The Cushing Cheekbone Appreciation Society gives its stamp of approval to the second story, with Cushing as the usual gently melancholy older dude.  There are evil waxworks, he has a lost love, he has a series of nightmares that made me genuinely uncomfortable to watch.  Sadly for me, the ending was standard--I was excited enough to hope for some kind of subversion of the usual "creepy thing that will get you in the end gets you in the end."  But in general I prefer when Cushing's characters don't die.

No disrespect to the CCAS, but I liked the third storyline best overall.  It was a nice mixture of boilerplate Gothic horror tropes that kept me guessing for a while.  Will our story be "Brave young woman becomes a nanny in a home with a Dark Secret and falls for sexy widower with sexy widow's peak"? Will it be "Creepy blonde child is the Bad Seed, and evil is heritable"? Or will we go with "abused child enacts horrible revenge"?  Somewhere between the latter two, it turns out: Papa Christopher Lee's deceased wife was a witch who left him with an adorable little girl who can kill people by sticking pins in wax images.  She has a grimoire bound in an encyclopedia cover, and she's clever enough to look inside Dad's electric shaver when she needs his hair for a pin-pricking dolly.  OK, so it was predictable, but fun-predictable, and it ended in just the right place.

kestrell's favorite was the fourth story, a self-referential vampire story about an egotistical jackass actor who makes vampire films and eventually gets what's coming to him.  The character is like a Bizarro World version of Peter Cushing, with the same career but with a witlessly hateful personality, strutting around screaming at the film crew and dating women half his age.  OK, that last part isn't essential villain behavior, if only because old guy/young woman is normalized in most societies.  Ingrid Pitt is a formidable woman.

Overall: fun/silly horror, well worth watching, probably won't revisit, good use of a house as a character.  The linking element is that all the characters live in the same house at different time periods.  The house itself doesn't really cause anything unpleasant that the tenants don't bring with them, but damn, it's a good use of Victorian clutter and decaying soft furnishings.  Never have I seen bronze animal paperweights and a spiral banister look so sinister.  There's one of those giant winged lecterns that looks like Sam the Eagle.  The French doors off the study open out onto a stone patio where nothing good ever happens.  As Kestrell and I agreed at the time, nothing good ever comes through French doors.
Tags: film yak, movies, reviews, vampires
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