The Haunted House of Horror (Michael Armstrong, 1969)
[note: review originally published 1Dec2008]
I watched the first half of this a few months ago. At least, I think I did; the DVR was stopped halfway through it, but I cannot for the life of me remember doing so, and now, watching it again, I don’t remember actually seeing any of this. And there’s no one else in the house who would be interested in a bunch of mods traipsing (or stumbling) through an abandoned castle with a serial killer on the loose. So this really is the most forgettable film ever, or someone in my house was really, really bored one night. I’m going with the former hypothesis, mostly because no one around here ever gets that bored. And because, having just watched the first hour again, I still don’t remember anything about it, save the presence of Veronica Doran.
There’s a certain stripe of actress who always gets cast to play the plain/dowdy/frumpy/contrast-to-the-beauty-queen role that I find almost unbearably gorgeous, and who often ends up eclipsing the beauty queen in my estimation. (The obvious example from more recent movies is the radiant Janeane Garofalo.) That’s Doran here, playing the chubby social misfit with only slightly bad teeth who’s playing against beauty queens Jill Haworth and Gina Warwick. (Oh, yeah, did I mention the entire movie is a vehicle for Frankie Avalon, who as an actor is one of the most forgettable ever to grace a screen?) As for the plot, I basically gave it away in the intro; a bunch of mods go traipsing about a supposedly haunted house after a boring party, and someone’s going around killing them. Unfortunately, they don’t actually get to the haunted house until about half an hour into this mess, and the first death doesn’t occur until fifteen minutes after that. Which is probably why I completely forgot the first bit, which is the boring party. Here’s a hint: if your characters are sitting around complaining that your party is boring, the audience will probably find it so as well. (Compare the party scene in Shriek of the Mutilated, one of my favorite awful films. It’s hackneyed, but at least it’s interesting.)
But, oh, Veronica Doran, I could watch you read the phone book. In fact, I’d prefer it to seeing this mess again, despite it containing a death scene you just do not expect in a movie from 1969. Director Armstrong found a bit more success as a screenwriter later on in his career, including being one of the guys who penned the underrated Lifeforce, but the obscurity into which The Haunted House of Horror has faded is all too well-deserved. Could someone get Veronica Doran a phone book and have her started reading, please? * ½