So I finally got around to picking up some stories by Richard Matheson, and the collection included the novel “Hell House”. This was a great read with some very disturbing moments and some really interesting sequences where the characters are really put through the ringer. I’d seen the movie a long time ago, but I figured I’d revisit it and see how it compares to the novel. Usually this is a bad idea… let’s see what happens.
Super wealthy but aging billionaire Mr. Deutsch (Roland Culver) demands to know if there is an afterlife. He wants facts and so he gathers the best of the best in paranormal expertise. There is Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill) a physicist who is convinced he knows the secret behind all types of paranormal activity and he has a machine to prove it. With him is his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt) who is looking forward to some fun in a haunted house. Then there is Florance Tanner (Pamela Franklin) a mental medium who is very successful contacting spirits. Last but not least is Benjamin Fischer (Roddy McDowall) a physical medium who barely survived the last excursion.
And what excursion is that? Why a nice trip to the most dangerous haunted house ever known: Hell House. This sprawling mansion was once owned by the infamous Emeric Belasco. This man was into debauchery, decadence and all manner of horrors. As such his house if filled with evil spirits that can’t wait to harm anyone that comes inside. The last group that risked it were either killed or driven insane – except for Benjamin. Now this new group must face disturbing haunting, horrifying revelations and even a possessed cat if they are to survive Hell House
- Some fine acting by the small cast
- Remains fairly true to Matheson’s original novel
- Has some pretty creepy moments in it
- Some aspects of the plot and characters seem a bit too familiar
- Seems to move in fits and starts
- The ending doesn’t quite have the punch it should
This movie almost works, but a bunch of little things keep it from being as memorable or scary as it should be. Hanging in the background is that Robert Wise’s film The Haunting covered similar ground and did it better. Some of the big moments don’t quite deliver. But the whole gothic atmosphere is handled well, and the cast does a very good job, especially the tormented performance by Pamela Franklin. Haunted house fans will enjoy it, but the novel worked a bit better and was able to get more extreme and disturbing in its own way.
Scores (out of 5)
Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.