2012 Film Challenge #10 - The House That Dripped Blood

An Amicus portmanteau horror with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. There was no way this one could fail.

And it didn't. It really, really didn't.

Each of the stories were somehow linked to the same old scary old house – a wonderfully creepy Victorian Gothic manor with a creaking grandfather clock, a library full of leather-bound Poe and a fantastic skull whose jaw flipped open to reveal an inkwell.

As a framing story, this seems a lot less contrived than the “group of strangers meet up and talk about their dreams” conceit that usually takes place in films of this nature. Each of the house's four successive inhabitants met some kind of sticky end, and this spate of death was in the process of being investigated by a dry and brittle old detective. No-nonsense in his outlook of life, he primed himself from the moment he appeared for a bit of good old fashioned supernatural comeuppance.

Of the four stories, the first was undoubtedly the best. It played with the idea that those who create fictional characters will, if they're not careful, become said fictional characters. In this case it was an unbearably creepy strangler called Dominick. And, whilst each of the stories ended with a twist, in this case the twist was the most unexpected, the most shocking and, as a result, the most chilling.

Then came the second story – yer standard “man falls in love with a fake woman” fare so beloved of the horror genre. This particular spin of the yarn, though, was stronger than most, as it starred Peter Cushing – otherwise known as “the loveliest man who ever did live”. It was hard to share his attraction of the false woman (a waxwork of Salome), but impossible not to feel moved by his plight. Here, the majority of the action took place in an incredible looking “Museum of Horror” - if it's real, I do so want to visit now.

This segment also featured one of the most endearing moments I've ever seen in any film. One of Mr. Cushing's old friends came to see him. He opened the door and happily exclaimed “Neville!” Such moments will do, you know? They'll just do.

Next came Christopher Lee tormented by his witchcraft-practising daughter (further misunderstandings of voodoo lore, here) in a story which suffered a little as a result of slightly wooden acting on the part of the child actor. Nyree Dawn Porter, though, was excellent as her nurse/teacher, and Mr. Lee delivered, as usual. I always find that he delivers. Only, in this case, he delivered as the victim rather than the tormentor. Do you know what we call that, friends? Range.

Finally came Jon Pertwee the Great playing Gruff Rhys Jones playing Christopher Lee: A veteran horror actor with a voice like bitter cake. His role involved a monologue concerning the lacking state of modern horror. This was something of a revelation for me: Perhaps it's always been the case that people have despaired over the state of their generation's horror films. A story as old as time itself, perhaps. But all the “classics” I've been watching have been – well, excellent. To an extent.

This is good news. It means that all the forgettable throwaway trash that dominates today will soon be – well, forgotten. Only the excellent will still be watched decades from now.

I think.

Affairs ended in the same way they always end in these Amicus portmanteau affairs – with the sinister star of the framing narrative addressing the audience directly and hinting that they – that's you! - might be next.

Only this wasn't as chilling a proclamation as it usually is. Take Vault of Horror (or was it Tales From The Crypt?) in which people apparently just stepped straight from their lives into inescapable doom.

To be told that that could happen to you is quite a disquieting thought. But it's comparatively easy to ensure that the fates that befell the cast of The House That Dripped Blood don't come to you. All you have to do is make sure you never, ever, ever rent the house in question.

That, however, might be easier said than done. The library alone would make the place irresistible for many.

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