‘Behind its forbidden doors an evil secret hides’
The Haunted House of Horror aka Horror House is a 1969 British-American proto-slasher horror feature film written and directed by Michael Armstrong (House of the Long Shadows (script); The Black Panther; Mark of the Devil).
The Tigon-AIP production stars Frankie Avalon, Jill Haworth, Dennis Price, George Sewell and Mark Wynter.
American International Pictures producer Louis ‘Deke’ Heyward re-wrote the script during production and line producer Gerry Levy (The Body Stealers) also penned and shot new scenes with a subplot involving a ‘red herring’.
In 1993, Michael Armstrong told The Darkside magazine: “When I first saw it all put together I nearly died. The stupid subplot is badly shot and so boring … I literally wept.”
Screenbound Pictures released a remastered version of The Haunted House of Horror in the UK on Blu-ray on April 15, 2019.
Commentary and a new interview with director Michael Armstrong
Interview clips with Michael Armstrong (director/screenwriter), Ross Carver (hairdresser), James Devis (camera operator), Carol Dilworth (lead actress), Veronica Doran (lead actress), Jeanette Ferber (production secretary), Howard Lanning (dubbing editor), Peter Pitt (editor), Mark Wynter (lead actor)
While attempting to enliven their evening after a dull party, a group of Londoners and their American friend, Chris (Frankie Avalon), decide to pay a visit to a supposedly haunted mansion. They lock themselves in, and, following a seance, one of them is brutally killed.
Realising the killer must be one of their own, unofficial ringleader Chris prevails on everyone to bury the body and, bizarrely – cover up the murder due to past drugs issues. However, the police investigate so, reluctantly, the group decide to identify the killer…
Reviews [may contain spoilers]:
” …a routine youth movie with added gore.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“Because of a huge script rewrite and reshoot halfway through production, we’ve lost what could have been a key horror film of the sixties. An intricate, dark, ground-breaking story that has almost been reduced to a silly teen slasher. As it stands, it’s still ten years ahead of Halloween and Friday the 13th, with murder scenes far bloodier than either.” Black Hole
” …the film is depressingly facile for much of its length but the bits shot by Armstrong – the graphically bloody murder scenes and the ensuing hysteria among the survivors – are done with a disquieting relish.” Jonathan Rigby, British Gothic, Reynolds & Hearn, 2004
“Although tame by modern gore standards, the restrained tone of the re-shot scenes and Armstrong’s original pacing (stretched out to almost painful lengths by later inserts) produce a film that has an uneasy tone.” Andy Boot, Fragments of Fear, Creation Books, 1996
“Unpleasant without being interesting in any aspect. The cast look as bored as the audience.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982
” …strains credulity even for a thriller and is elongated to breaking point. The shock sequences are reasonably well contrived and there is a liberal flow of blood, but this haunted house is more likely to induce sleep than nightmare.” Monthly Film Bulletin, December 1969
” …makes effective use of its creepy backdrop – all foreboding candlelit rooms and creaking doors – and the murders (including a staircase stabbing) are startling for their time. The climactic assault on Avalon, for instance, is particularly bloody and incorporates a graphic groin knifing.” Steven West, The Shrieking Sixties, Midnight Marquee Press, 2010
Sylvia: I’m not scared, I’m just bored. The party might not have been a raving success but this is ridiculous.”
Cast and characters:
Frankie Avalon … Chris
Jill Haworth … Sheila
Dennis Price … Inspector
Mark Wynter … Gary
George Sewell … Kellett
Gina Warwick … Sylvia
Richard O’Sullivan … Peter
Carol Dilworth … Dorothy
Julian Barnes … Richard
Veronica Doran … Madge
Robin Stewart … Henry
Jan Holden … Peggy
Clifford Earl … Police Sergeant
Robert Raglan … Bradley
Nicholas Young … Party Guest
Bank Hall, Bretherton, Lancashire, England
Birkdale Palace Hotel, Southport, England
Carnaby Street, London, England
Great Marlborough Street, London, England
Grim’s Dyke, Old Redding, Harrow Weald, London (reshoots)
The original title was The Dark
Boris Karloff was intended to play the role of the Inspector but was too ill.
Although portraying a teenager, Frankie Avalon was nearly thirty years old at the time of filming.