Horror has always been a favorite genre of mine, and haunted house movies in particular have a special place in my heart. While there are the greats like Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, and The Shining, there are earlier classics that should not be overlooked like The Haunting, The Innocents, Burnt Offerings, and what I consider one of the all-time greats, The Legend of Hell House, which is out this week on glorious Blu-ray.
When Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill) is hired to find proof of the afterlife, he puts together a team including his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), a psychic medium (Pamela Franklin), and a physical medium named Fischer (Roddy McDowall) to spend a week in Belasco House, a massive and supposedly haunted estate. Upon arriving at the gothic manor the team experiences all sorts of unexplained phenomenon and must try to sort out what is real and what is not. All the while the experience plays with each of their insecurities and personal issues making it much more of an ordeal than any of them could have anticipated.
Unlike more subtle movies in the genre like The Haunting, The Legend of Hell House is a balls out crazy thrill ride right from the start. No guessing what is going on here, there is immediate poltergeist activity, booming sounds, objects being thrown around, displaces noises and voices and even people being changed and influenced by the power of the house. The performances by the whole cast are appropriately a little over the top but it totally works. Roddy McDowall is fantastic as usual but so are the other cast members. The production design is what really steals the show though as the Belasco Estate is foreboding, massive, and gothically imposing. The house is definitely the main character in this film.
The Blu-ray from Shout Factory (big surprise) is absolutely gorgeous. The 1973 film looks beautiful here with great clarity and detail and natural colors. The print shows its age slightly with overall coloring etc., but this is a damn fine transfer and the movie looks better than ever. For a great double feature night of the extremes of haunted house films done right, pair this one up with Robert Wise’s 1963 The Haunting for a night not easily forgotten. Check out the clip below for a taste of pure awesome!
Available August 26, 2014 on Blu-ray.