The Shuttered Room (1966)
Here's a film that could be so easily overlooked as a British horror classic - it's set in America, everyone has American accents and one of the stars is a buggering great big American car of the type only ever seen in films like Grease.
But it's British through and through - the main clue to this being the sight of several well-known English character actors struggling to deliver their lines in broad New England accents. As with every attempt to do this, they have a roughly 50 per cent success rate and constantly have to re-adjust before their RADA-trained slip shows too much.
But dodgy accents aside, The Shuttered Room is a fine film - making good use of its meagre budget to deliver a few chills and some memorable scenes (although the non-supernatural ending is a bit of a let-down).
It begins with a young girl being menaced in bed by an unseen foe, before the foe is beaten back by her dad. We cut to the present day and the girl (Suzanna) has returned, all grown up and looking pretty saucy. She's brought along her new husband (Mike), and is determined to put her demons behind her by returning to her parents' mill.
The locals consist of a real bunch of misfits - Oliver Reed (reprising his terrifying bully-boy role from These Are The Damned) and his gang, a one-eyed bloke who delights in informing the couple that he lost his binocular vision when "the hot breath of hell" blew on his face up at the old mill ("There's nothing but demons live there..."), and Flora Robson, who spends her days sitting in a lighthouse gazing meaningfully out to sea.
Despite living on an island (and hence surrounded by water, you'd suppose), not-so jolly Ollie and his cronies appear to spend their time pretend water-skiing (which consists of some hapless berk being dragged behind a truck on a packing crate until he flies off into a barbed wire fence). Reed is also deeply concerned when he learns that Suzanna is the heir to the old mill, as he was under the impression it would come to him.
As Suzanna (Carol Lynley) and Mike (Gig Young - possibly the only actual American in the whole film) finally arrive at their new home, it becomes obvious (through the power of point-of-view camera work) that something is watching them from the attic of the building. Despite very un-veiled threats by all and sundry that something horrible will happen if they stay there, Mike buggers off to let Suzanna clean the place (for "clean" read "beat the crap out of things with a broom"), but it's not long before she's fed up and goes for a walk along the beach. Narrowly missing out on what looks like a consentual gang-bang involving Reed, his mates and a local girl, Suzanna then gets chased and almost caught by the half-wits. Luckily, Mike arrives in time to save her and beats the crap out of Reed (hooray!).
Despite having possibly the worst first day in their new home in the history of moving, the couple endeavour to stay - and the way is clear for them to find out exactly what it is that lurks in the shuttered room at the top of the mill...
The Shuttered Room is very enjoyable, right up until the derivative end. It has a gorgeous heroine, a cool-as-ice hero, a terrifying baddie in Oliver Reed, and enough plot twists and turns to keep you guessing up to (almost) the end. It is also extremely brutal - with near-rapes, vicious attacks and some great set-pieces.
Keep an eye out for Reed's improvised torch (no children's toy would burn that easily or well these days) and make sure you shudder when Suzanna tells us how terrified she was that someone... or something used to watch her from the windows of her doll's house during the night...
Last updated: February 27, 2010
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