June 15, 1973
Roddy McDowall as Benjamin Fischer
Clive Revill as Lionel Barrett
Gayle Hunnicutt as Ann Barrett
Pamela Franklin as Florence Tanner
As fans of the genre know, most good horror movies entertain with scares and gore. Then there are films that capture our interest by relying on a creepy theme, excellent acting and a twisted story. The Legend of Hell House is the latter. Part mystery and part horror movie, it entered theaters a year after The Exorcist (1973) and the same year as The Wicker Man (1973). Its story is similar to the 1963 movie,The Haunting, except instead of attempting to prove the existence of the supernatural, a team of paranormal experts is employed to disprove the existence of life after death. As such, they endeavor to stay in the supposedly haunted Belasco house and perform experiments.
The house was built by devil worshipper William Belasco in 1919. Within its confines, he sated his grotesque appetites with vampirism, cannibalism, necrophilia and carnal sex acts. Several died, or were “accidentally” killed during his mortal residency. After he passed, bizarre deaths continued to occur on the property and anyone who spent the night in the house either went mad, or lost their life.
The team sent to disprove the haunting includes Lionel Barrett, a paranormal scientist, his wife, Ann, and two psychics, Florence Tanner and Benjamin Fischer. Interestingly, the existence of supernatural phenomena is taken as a given and the only question is whether the psychic energy in the house can be traced to spirits of the dead. Lionel is the skeptic of the bunch. Through experimentation (including a machine that rebalances psychic energy) he seeks to prove conclusively that it does not. Florence, a gifted young medium and Benjamin, a more experienced psychic, employ their own skills to the same end, but are less skeptical. Ann (an Angelina Jolie look-alike), accompanies them and acts as an observer.
The four experience unexplained disturbances throughout the several days of investigation. Lionel begins to suspect that the two psychics may be manipulating energy within the house to his peril. At the same time, both Ann and Florence appear vulnerable to sexual suggestion from the psychic force.
The Legend of Hell House is a classical haunting, perfect for the fan who is not big on gore, but still enjoys grotesque events and plot twists. Although not as scary as The Amityville Horror(1979), it supports itself with a more nuanced plot and superior acting. I give it three ½ out of five freak heads.