The Legend of Hell House (1973)

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“Physicist Lionel Barrett and his wife lead a team of mediums into the Belasco House, which is supposedly haunted by the victims of its late owner, a six-foot-five serial killer.” — IMDb

This was everything I could have wanted in a 1970’s haunted house movie. Firstly, the movie jumps IMMEDIATELY into Barrett (played by Clive Revill) being asked to investigate the house — the backstory is all explained after they’ve arrived. The atmosphere throughout the entire movie is just SO good. The thick fog when they arrive at the house, the music, the use of light and shadows, the deliciousness of 70’s era film, even the house itself… all perfect. This movie doesn’t rely on special effects or even gore to make itself known, which I think is impressive since it definitely delivers. The ghostly shadow in the shower comes to mind right away, as well as Florence’s (played by Pamela Franklin) first sitting when she channels a desperately violent spirit who bellows “GET OUT OR I’LL KILL YOU ALL”. Shuddering just thinking about it.

Ultimately I’m always a huge fan of the whole science vs. paranormal debate and this movie is 100% centered around that. Barrett is dismissive and skeptical of any thought of spirits or hauntings, despite the evidence being all around him, and is convinced that he can rid the energy of the house with his devices… but the look of genuine fear, superbly acted, when he realizes he has failed, and says “I do not accept this!” is just awesome to behold.

But the real star, in my opinion, is Ben (played by Roddy McDowall), the physical medium and the sole survivor of a previous stay at the house. He is just fantastic the whole way through, but his battle with Belasco at the end is amazing — he is wild and desperate and taunting and the energy around the whole scene is crazy.

Solid movie all around — a classic for a reason!

Rating: 8/10 | Director: John Hough | Starring: Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicutt

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