Director: John Hough
Cast: Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicutt, Michael Gough (uncredited)
Have I Seen it Before: Never. Never even knew it existed until a few weeks ago.
Did I Like It: Yes, but I’m beginning to have certain reactions to the genre which may hamper my overall enthusiasm.
To facilitate the discussion on “Beyond The Cabin in The Woods,” a podcast on which I’ve been serving on the panel, I have watched four “haunted house” movies in the last two months. This may match my lifetime average, as I have only sparse memories of other entries in the genre, aside from the lackluster Winchester (2018) which I had watched for the same reason.
Of those four (Thir13en Ghosts (2001), The Haunting (1963), and House on Haunted Hill (1959)), The Legend of Hell House stands above the rest. The problem with too many haunted house movies is that there is an implicit rule that dictates nothing happens for a certain period of time, to introduce some measure of doubt as to whether ghosts can exist at all. In The Haunting, that null period takes place over the entire course of the picture. It never fully commits to a position about the existence of ghosts, and thus, the film is a woeful bore.
In The Legend of Hell House, this doubt is dispensed with quite rapidly. Yes, Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill) is brought into these series of events to bring proof of life after death, but both this quest and the doubt about the supernatural are dropped within minutes. There’s something wrong with this house from the get-go, and the film wastes no time having good, clean, masochistic fun with the possibilities.
Certainly, the film can’t help but live within its more pulpy roots. Any film with Roddy McDowall isn’t particularly interested in elevating the material, but as far as haunted house movies go, I’d recommend starting here.