HOMEBODIES (1974) Reviews and overview

 

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‘A murder a day keeps the landlord away!’

Homebodies is a 1974 American black comedy horror feature film directed by Larry Yust from a screenplay co-written with Howard Kaminsky and Bennett Sims. It was distributed in the United States by Avco Embassy Pictures.

The movie features a cast of veteran actors, including Ian Wolfe, Ruth McDevitt (Kolchak: The Night Stalker), Peter Brocco (The Killing Kind), and Douglas Fowley. The plot focuses on elderly residents resorting to murder to protect their condemned Cincinnati building…

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Review:

Can we just be honest about something? Most of us are a little bit scared of the elderly.

Oh, we try to deny it. We talk about how they’re “real characters” or we attempt to convince ourselves that their eccentricities are actually signs of an incurable zest of life. We tell ourselves that old people remind us of the value of carpe diem but, ultimately, they creep most of us out because, when we look at them, we see our own future. Regardless of what we do today or tomorrow, we’re all going to eventually become old. Perhaps that’s why there’s a whole industry devoted to keeping old people out of sight and out of mind.

Homebodies is effective precisely because it understands that unpleasant truth.

Directed by Larry Yust, Homebodies tells the story of Mattie (Paula Trueman). Mattie is one of seven elderly retirees who are the sole residents of a condemned apartment building. All around them, buildings are being torn down and replaced with new apartments. When an uncaring social worker (Linda Marsh) shows up and informs them that they’re going to be forcefully relocated to an assisted living facility, Mattie take matters into her own hands. She realises that every time there’s an accident on a construction site, work stops for a few days.

Hence, if there are enough accidents, work will be stopped indefinitely. Mattie and her fellow residents (some reluctantly and some not) are soon murdering anyone they view as a threat. While this is effective initially, things get complicated once Mattie starts to view some of her fellow residents with the same contempt that she previously reserved for construction workers.

Homebodies is one of those odd and dark films that could have only been made in the ’70s. When the film begins, one would be excused for expecting to see a heart-warming comedy about a bunch of plucky seniors outsmarting the forces of progress and real estate. After all, the elderly residents of the condemned building are all appropriately quirky and, as played by Paula Trueman, Mattie doesn’t seem like she’d be out-of-place as one of the prankers on Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. Linda Marsh’s social worker and Kenneth Tobey’s construction foreman both seem like the type of authority figures who one would expect to see humiliated in a mawkish 1970s comedy film.

Instead, Homebodies turns out to be an effectively creepy and dark little film. When the elderly residents of the apartment building fight back, they do so with surprising brutality that’s all the more effective because of the harmless exteriors of Mattie and her fellow residents. Paula Trueman makes Mattie into a truly fascinating and frightening monster. When a few of her fellow residents start to question Mattie’s methods, you truly do fear for them because Mattie has truly proven herself to be capable of just about anything. While Trueman dominates the film, the entire cast is excellent.

Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens

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Other reviews:

“This film is one part social commentary and one part horror film. The murderous impulses of these octogenarians are at once comical and repulsive and the graphic depiction of the gruesome acts, while minimal is effective. The deeper, melancholy message about how we dispose of our aged is also on full display.” The Obscurity Factor

“This quirky film doesn’t quite hit all the marks, but still remains a unique example of a multi-layered black comedy in a market that was increasingly dominated by teenage body count movies and flicks about demented hillbillies.” Brian Albright, Regional Horror Films, 1958 – 1990

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“The subsequent mayhem is depicted with humour, nicely controlled tension, and – somehow – with dignity. Towards the end, the group’s leader (76-year-old Paula Trueman, a saner version of Ruth Gordon) gets carried away into excess, and the film goes off the rails with her. But on balance it’s remarkably convincing.” Time Out London

“By making the old folks multiple murderers the film sacrifices credibility as a morality tale, but it gains instead a wit and irony that would have perhaps amused Hitchcock, and should certainly appeal to those who appreciate black comedies such as Arsenic and Old Lace and The Ladykillers.” Stephen Thrower, Nightmare USA

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” …topnotch production values (on what appears to be a modest budget), an inventive script which manages to combine grisly black humour, gripping suspense and genuine pathos, crisp direction and superb character performances all round.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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Cast and characters:

Peter Brocco … Mr Blakely
Frances Fuller … Miss Emily
William Hansen … Mr Sandy
Ruth McDevitt … Mrs Loomis
Paula Trueman … Mattie
Ian Wolfe … Mr Loomis
Linda Marsh … Miss Pollack
Douglas Fowley … Mr Crawford
Kenneth Tobey … Construction Boss
Wesley Lau … Construction Foreman
Norman Gottschalk … Apartment Superintendent
Ireene Webster … Woman in Floppy Hat
Nicholas Lewis … Construction Worker
Michael Johnson … Policeman
Alma Du Bus … Apartment Superintendent’s Wife
John Craig … Construction Worker
Eldon Quick … Insurance Inspector
William ‘Billy’ Benedict … Watchman (as William Benedict)
Joseph DeMeo … Intern (as Joe deMeo)

Filming locations:

Cincinnati, Ohio

Technical details:

96 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono

Image credits: The Obscurity FactorTemple of Schlock

TV spot:

Trailer:

MOVIES and MANIA rating: