Haunted House Of Horror (1969)
Before we start, the first question which must spring into everyone's mind as Haunted House Of Horror starts is, "what exactly is going on before the credits?" I'll leave that little poser up to you, just sort of hanging there for those who have yet to sample its "delights".
It's the 60s again, you can tell by the way the film makers have gone all out on the swinging and completely ignored what was actually happening in the real world outside Carnaby Street. Everyone under the age of 30 looks (and is) over the age of 30, and they all work in groovy boutiques. "Stoned" apparently means "drunk", and a good night out seemingly involves standing around a piano in a pub, having a good old sing-song.
Meanwhile a girl called Sylvia has had enough of her sugar daddy, "Uncle Bob" (George Sewell) and tells him to leave her alone. With a menacing look he replies "I'll tell you this, you won't get away from me. Wherever you are, I'll be around somewhere."
This being the 60s she assumes this is his way of saying "fine, I'll find someone my own age and settle down", rather than calling the police and getting out a restraining order.
Sylvia's friends are all at a party being held by Chris (great name, that, played by faded pop star Frankie "I'm not too old for this role, honest" Avalon). "Here he comes," one of them remarks about their host, "the epitome of swinging London itself."
A lad called Gary (another alleged real-life pop star Mark Wynter, no I've never heard of him either) turns up at the party pissed, and everyone else (who are all sober - hang on, haven't the film makers got that the wrong way round?) looks suitably aghast, including Peter (Richard O' Sullivan), who seems pretty disgusted about everything that happens in his immediate vicinity, including when his girlfriend asks for a kiss (although to be fair, she is a bit of a munter).
Sylvia arrives at the party courtesy of Bob's car, and immediately tries to get off with the drunk Gary. He refuses. Meanwhile, everyone else is getting fed up. "Chris usually gives such crazy parties, but this is a drag," one of them moans. They decide to take a trip out to a haunted house, and set off in a variety of vehicles, followed unseen by Bob. On arrival, Peter immediately starts moaning: "I don't dig this place."
But he's immediately outvoted, particularly by Sheila, his portly girlfriend. "I really dig this place!"
"Honestly Sheila," Chris replies, "the way you dig blood you'd think you were a vampire."
The tale is told that 20 years ago a member of the family went mad and chopped up everyone else in the house. The killer is still supposed to haunt the place.
This has a profound effect on our young gang. "To hell with the drinks, let's have an orgy!" one of them cries (that's more like it).
"No let's have a séance!" says another (boo ).
More crappy yoof-speak is spouted, including classic lines like "I think it's a gas!" and "It's the house of the dead!", before Sylvia decides she's had enough (I know how she feels) and is escorted out by Gary (but only as far as the front door). Bob sees them kiss and then follows Sylvia as she walks off into the night, alone.
Back in the house, the rest of them have decided to hold that séance, and then all get the urge to wander around the place with candles, bumping into each other in a lame attempt to make the viewer jump ("Oh! It's you!" etc). Someone has obviously seen The Haunting, as well, as the camera takes every opportunity to zoom in on any mouldings or interesting architectural features available.
Suddenly, and without any warning, we are treated to possibly one of the nastiest deaths in 60s British horror films, as Gary is extremely messily hacked to pieces by an unseen assailant. Coming as it does after what seems like hours of tedium, this really does work. And even to the jaded eyes of a 21st century viewer, it's an astonishingly gory scene.
The body is found (Richard O'Sullivan brings up his lunch on first viewing it), and the gang run off, call the police and wait for them to catch the killer. The end. Except they don't.
It's at about this point that the modern viewer (hello) begins to get an inkling that Haunted House Of Horror might be some kind of seminal work, predating by some considerable years the "teens in peril" slasher pics of the 80s (kids refuse to stop wandering around alone and get brutally picked off one by one etc). For no discernable reason, firstly the group decide not to leave the house. Instead, they choose to remain and search it methodically. Then, after a brief fit of the screaming hab-dabs from Sheila, Chris decides: "No-one's going to go running off or running to the police. We have got to figure this out for ourselves!"
He adds that the killer must be one of them, and that they must hide the body.
Leaving aside the obvious "Eh? What? Why?" questions this statement immediately throws up for the viewer, we can at least take comfort in the idea that what we're about to get is a proto Friday The 13th, full of suspense and shocks as the group gradually get whittled down to one plucky girl who finishes off the killer, only to find that all is not as it seems. Basking in a warm glow, that same viewer can tell themselves that Haunted House Of Horror may be crap, but at least it has a place in the history books.
Wrong. The next thing we know, it's three days later and the police are investigating a missing person - Gary, to be precise. They remember he was involved in a drugs bust last year (the only one in London during 1968, apparently), and all the gang get pulled in for questioning. Meanwhile Bob has got frothed up by the news that Sylvia left his cigarette lighter at the old house. "Only a lighter!" he shouts, "it could finish us both!"
He goes to get it and is killed (bloodlessly, this time). The rest of the gang are now beginning to crack, and Peter decides that the only way they're going to sort it out is if they re-create their night in the house(!?!).
They all traipse back and the scene is set for another violent death and a thoroughly unconvincing (and vaguely confusing) ending.
Haunted House Of Horror is not a good film - apart from the ridiculous dialogue, dodgy acting, Jill "scrumptious" Haworth and that death, there's not a lot to recommend it. The house isn't haunted and the horror is few and far between. Considering it was made by the "usually better than Hammer" Tigon, it's a major disappointment. Would it have been any better if the role of Gary had gone to the first choice, a little-known chap by the name of David Bowie? It's unlikely.
Last updated: February 23, 2010
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