Directed by John Hough and featuring a brilliant screenplay by Richard Matheson(upon who’s novel the film is based),1973’s The Legend of Hell House is perhaps the ultimate haunted house film.Filled with images of a fog covered Gothic mansion,strange noises,a frightening back story concerning the previous occupants and disembodied voices.
Dr Lionel Barrett(Clive Revill)is given the task of proving that there is life after death by wealthy Mr Deutsch(Roland Culver).The experiment takes place over a week at the notorious Balasko house.Lionel is accompanied by his wife Ann(Gayle Hunnicutt),top medium Florence Tanner(Pamela Franklin)and the only survivor from the last experiment-which left eight people dead and seriously injured-psychic Benjamin Franklin Fischer(Roddy McDowall.
They are no sooner in and settled when the evil in the house begins to manifest itself.Strange noises,temperature drops and Florence is visited by the spirit of Balaskos dead son and during a sitting manifests ectoplasm.
Fischer has his mind closed to any spiritual intrusions due to what happened last time and he warns the group to leave,advice which we know they should pay heed to but they don’t.
Despite a good first half filled with some decent scares,the film loses it’s way in the last ten minutes with an unsatisfactory ending.However what presides it is worth watching and seeing McDowall shout a ghost into submission is well worth the price of the DVD anyway.
With a creepy electronic score by Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire which adds greatly to the atmosphere.The Legend of Hell House is a classic British horror which gets away giving us more on screen scares than 1963’s The Haunting ever could.
With excellent performances especially McDowall’s and Franklin’s and great special effects,this is a must for fans of the horror genre.