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May 13, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #35 - The Legend of Hell House

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise  Number 39 - Dog Soldiers Number 38 - Pontypool  Number 37 - Dark Water  Number 36 - Army of Darkness
The Legend of Hell House
(1973, Dir. by John Hough.)
Why It's Here:
I hate to go all smear campaign right at the start, but here's the thing.  If you put The Legend of Hell House and The Haunting in front of me - which are probably the two classic haunted house movies in my mind - I'm gonna pick The Legend of Hell House at least 4 out of 5 times. And most people go the other direction.  The Haunting is revered as the king of haunted movies and Legend of Hell House is seen as kind of its kooky cousin...and that saddens me.  The reasons for my sadness are twofold: a) I REALLY love The Legend of Hell House, and b) Julie Harris' narration of The Haunting makes me want to put drumsticks through my eardrums like a Spinal Tap drummer on a drum kit (before combustion).
The Moment That Changes Everything:
One thing I absolutely love about Hell House is that this house is a vile, foul-mouthed, and often perverse muddertrucka.  Perhaps the most intense example in the film is when the straight-laced wife of a scientist played by Gayle Hunnicutt gets a little bit possessed and starts ranting about sadistic sexual fantasies to the terrified Benjamin Franklin Fischer, portrayed be the always scare-able Roddy McDowell.  The intensity shown from the character is one of the clearest indicators in the film that this house is not playing Scooby Doo with its inhabitants.
It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
Well, The Haunting, obviously.  I know I was dogging on it earlier, but a double feature of these two films could basically be called The "Everything You Ever Need To Know About Old Dark Haunted House Movies" Double Feature.  So what if the voiceover makes me want to staple my ears to my cheeks and bring out the crazy glue, the rest of the movie is bloody perfect.
What It Means To Me:
I learned how much I love Richard Matheson from the movies - to be honest, I'm just now finally reading his novel Hell House for the first time(!) - and The Legend of Hell House represents exactly what I love about the writer.  There's a mixture of science and supernature, a balance between physical and mental struggles, and a heck of a lot of wonderfully drawn scenes that don't hold anything back.  To me, Hell House is a prototype for a lot of the things I want to see in any horror movie/story.

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