Sunday, August 17, 2014

REVIEW: The Legend of Hell House (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR SANITY, JUST BUY THE BLU

I am going to make a bold statement after rewatching The Legend of Hell House on Blu-ray from Scream Factory. The Legend of Hell House is absolutely terrifying. I mean that. I truly do. Let me set the stage for this most recent viewing experience, so you understand that I come by this hyperbole laden statement honestly because I want you to understand that I'm writing this even after a day's chance to collect my thoughts. This statement may even contradict a statement I made with the last year about the same movie.

It's midnight and the temperature in New Jersey is unseasonably cold. I have all the windows open which means that my house has become rather chilly and smells of fall. You know the smell. It's the smell of Halloween and leaves and even a faint whiff of cider in the air. I decide that I must watch The Legend of Hell House even though it is admittedly a little passed my bedtime. This is the time of night where your mind likes to take every sound and sensation and amplify it creating the perfect unease and tension to become frightened. Lo and behold The Legend of Hell House got under my skin from the moment that I stared through the wispy fog, through the gates at a the visage of the house of Hell. Each scare (even the blatant jump scares) tossed my nerves about like a lost ship in a storm (or me in my PJs on my couch). It seemed I was helpless to its power including the subdued, droning score that kept my heart in panic beats. When Roddy McDowall registered his infamous account of the size and deeds of one Emeric Belasco, I refrained from looking around the room for fear that I might turn my head in see him in my room. These are moments I cherish. Watching a classic horror movie and having a unique experience with it. Even though I have seen and written about Legend of Hell House before this visceral reaction to it was unlike any previous viewing; I wonder if any viewing will be like it again.

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

It sits here, shrouded in mist and mystery, a nesting place for living evil and terror from the dead. It's Hell House. Roddy McDowall heads the cast of this exciting chiller about four psychic investigators and the dark, brooding mansion they call "the Mt. Everest of haunted houses." It's already destroyed one team of researchers. Now this brave quartet ventures in for another try at unraveling its secrets. But before they succeed, they must suffer through madness, murder and everything else that the spirits who dwell here have in store for them. Yet learning the truth just might drive them all insane. An ingeniously devised ghost story, The Legend Of Hell House will thrill and delight veteran horror fans from the first creaking door to the very last slithering shadow.
Pay attention to the music.

Even writing about my viewing experience with the Legend of Hell House made me want to watch it again and relive that same terror, the same dread. Would you believe I don't think I've actually read Hell House by Richard Matheson, the story from which our movie draws its name and story, faithfully adapted? I did read Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House which feels every so similar. The Matheson book is on my bucket list starting now. I want to read it when October kicks into high gear after a long day of raking.

Perhaps the thing that always gets me about The Legend of Hell House is that it's a PG rated movie. Though it contains intense scares and even nudity, this movie was deemed appropriate for a younger age than I would think could handle its horror (for the 70's that is). Today I am vexed with trying to scare my daughter with this one using the PG rating on the back to get it passed our internal sensor ie mom. Maybe as part of our Halloween festivities when her tolerance for such things grows three sizes like the Grinch's heart on Christmas.

The Scream Factory disc is quite lovely. It preserves the vibe of the movie well with a good transfer. My previous viewing experiences of this movie have been on VHS, DVD and even streaming. This was the best of all viewing experiences in terms of sound and visual quality. The extra package for this release isn't as full loaded as you might expect from a Scream Factory disc, but it does contain the essentials. With Roddy McDowall passed and perhaps a few others, I'm afraid this 1973 will have to go without a few interviews due to lack availability alone. What you do get is a details history from Director John Hough who walks you through the production lovingly. This is an extremely informative feature and a delightful watch for this LOHH fan. The disc also contains a trailer and an audio commentary with Pamela Franklin, Florence Tanner, a physical medium.  The disc also contains a trailer and radio spots. The outside cover is a more traditional display of the iconic skull/house design. The reverse is the actual artwork from which the cover is drawn, slightly different and absolutely 70's brilliant.

Scream Factory has offered a chance to walk into Hell House and visit with a group of paranormal researchers who will battle a truly demonic individual. They have done so with care for transfer and with consideration for the fan, old and new  who will surely want to know more about the house that Belasco built. It's a great thing that this Blu-ray has been made available August 26th because that gives you plenty of time to pick it up before your Halloween festivities. Perfect for sleepovers with kids who need a great scare who can handle some mature subjects (and who can handle brief female nudity). This picture is on par with movies like The Haunting, The Uninvited and House on Haunted Hill with strong performances all around and a score to scare.

Out August 26th. Prepare for fall. Prepare to be scared in the best way possible by a classic tale from Matheson with one of Roddy McDowall's best performances.

Also, I wanted to share with you the Trailers from Hell, Mick Garris brief discussion about this picture. I'm a big fan of his dialogue regarding this movie and the historical context in which he inserts it. I will note that he mentions the sexuality was toned down from Matheson's original novel, so now I absolutely MUST read it.

Also I like to point out the similar feeling (at least in part) that Edgar Wright's faux trailer for DON'T seems to share with The Legend of Hell House trailer. This is one of the reasons I adore the movie Grindhouse and why I chose to get the poster of said movie tattooed on my arm. Check it out.

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