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  Haunted House of Horror, The Scare Home
Year: 1969
Director: Michael Armstrong
Stars: Frankie Avalon, Jill Haworth, Dennis Price, Mark Wynter, George Sewell, Gina Warwick, Richard O'Sullivan, Carol Dilworth, Julian Barnes, Veronica Doran, Robin Stewart, Jan Holden, Clifford Earl, Robert Raglan
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 3 votes)
Review: Something terrible happened in this abandoned house in the forest, something of great relevance to one of a group of friends in London, and something even worse will happen tonight. Before then, boutique assistant Sylvia (Gina Warwick) notices from the window display that Gary (Mark Wynter), the boy she has her eye on, is talking with Dorothy (Carol Dilworth), who may well be her love rival the way things are going. As it is, they will all meet up at a party this evening, where a mixture of resentment and attraction greets Gary. But enough resentment to turn sinister?

Here's one of those "what might have been" movies - originally David Bowie was intended by writer and director Michael Armstrong to have taken a key role in this, but he was turned down because they already had two singing stars in the film, Wynter (whose "introducing" credit didn't make it clear that audiences of the time would know who he was thanks to his hit records), and Mr Beach Party himself, Frankie Avalon. Imagine, in light of that ending, that Bowie's character was the one who clashed with Frankie's instead of what actually occured and you can see why this little item would have gone down in history.

As it turned out, The Haunted House of Horror was best recalled for that ending, but for different, though still Frankie-related, reasons. He was cast by his A.I.P. overlords in this British production, as if his by now past its prime youth appeal would fit right in with Swinging London: he was thirty years old and playing ten years younger, and few were convinced as this effort was quickly forgotten and consigned to late night television showings to surprise (or possibly bore) the unwary. As you watch the story unfold up to that first murder, which occurs halfway through, you are aware that there is a serious lack of incident here.

Mostly it's that old padding device of cheapo horror movies, getting the characters wandering about. Some see this particular film as a predecessor to the first slasher craze of the late seventies and early eighties, although it could just as easily be seen as a British version of the European giallo-style works (except the sexual angle is toned down in this), but in a way they're correct. Simply get your cast skulking about in some out of the way location at night, and the rest writes itself, or that would appear to be the thinking behind the plotting here. At first it is Sylvia who looks to be our wanderer in chief, as she is stalked by an old (and I mean old) boyfriend (George Sewell), but Warwick did not receive top billing.

The female lead, according to the way the credits appear at the beginning at any rate, is Jill Haworth as Sheila, although in truth she gets about as much to do as anyone apart from Avalon. Still, she was probably the biggest female name in the cast at the time, so fair enough, but Brit sitcom fans may be more interested in seeing Richard O'Sullivan of Man About The House and Me and My Girl fame hoving into view for a little light comic relief. Dennis Price has a minor role as the detective investigating the murder which strikes when the party heads off to the titular haunted house, but nobody makes much of an impression, least of all the one who turns out to be the killer - you could be forgiven for not noticing them at all until their big scene at the finale. There's nothing hugely awful about this, it's just undistinguished most of the way through unless you like to drink in the atmosphere of the time and place, which is portrayed quite neatly. Music by Reg Tilsley.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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