House of Mortal Sin aka The Confessional – UK, 1975

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‘One day a monstrous evil was unleashed from the most sacred place on earth…’

House of Mortal Sin – also known as The Confessional and The Confessional Murders – is a 1975 horror film (released February 1976) directed by Pete Walker from a screenplay by David McGillivray (House of Whipcord, Schizo; Satan’s Slave), from a story by Walker.

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On November 8, 2014, the film was shown at a ‘House of Walker’ retrospective organised by Cigarette Burns held at the Barbican Cinema, London. Interviewed by Kim Newman before the screening, David McGillivray revealed that he had to study Catholicism to be inspired for the killing methods (a flaming incense burner, a poisoned holy wafer and strangulation by rosary beads), and that his preferred title was Mass Murder. Still embarrassed (although he needn’t be) by his own script, he declined to stay for the showing, which was well-received and prompted spontaneous applause at the end.

David McGillivray Kim Newman House of Mortal Sin Barbican cinema House of Walker

The film stars Anthony Sharp (InvasionDie Screaming Marianne), Susan Penhaligon (The UncannyPatrick; Dracula (1977 BBC), Stephanie Beacham (The NightcomersDracula A.D. 1972Inseminoid), Norman Eshley and Sheila Keith. As with Walker’s FrightmareAndrew Sachs has a minor role.

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A deranged priest takes it upon himself to punish his parishioners for their moral transgressions: “I was put on this earth to combat sin and I shall use every available means to do so.” And he does…

Reviews:

“McGillivray’s script is full of inventive ideas which were obviously meant to shock and stir up controversy. Having the villainous murderer a repressed and crazed Catholic priest in modern times brought a new and different kind of monster to the catalog of British horror, and he’s marvelously played by Sharp. A lapsed Catholic in real life, Walker uses the film as a comment on organized religion, as extreme and satirical as it may be…” DVD Drive-In

“The excess is toned down for some good old-fashioned psychological horror and when the blood does flow, it has more impact for its rarity. Having a great cast helps too – Anthony Sharp and Sheila Keith are superb as the mad priest and his housekeeper, while the ‘young’ generation of Beacham, Penhaligon and Eshley give it a contemporary rather than gothic feel…” Cinedelica

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“Acidic black comedy, or typically crass 70s horror flick brought out with the sole aim of shocking a jaded public? The jury’s still out on House of Mortal Sin (aka The Confessional), but you can’t deny that it’s entertaining.” British Horror Films

“Definitely a poke in the eye of the Catholic Church, about a demented priest driven to murder his sinful; parishioners in the name of the Lord. Father Xavier is played with sinister delight, his appearance, mannerisms and holier-than-thou pomposity is spot on.” McBastard’s Mausoleum

“For added box office appeal, the grotesque violence is fleshed out with arbitrary evocations of blighted sexual liaisons. However, the director remains ham-fisted, the performances unfocused rather than maniacal and the script woefully contrived.” The Aurum Horror Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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ten years of terror

Buy Ten Years of Terror: British Horror Films in the 1970s book Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Wikipedia | IMDb | Thanks to the following for images: Island of Terror

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