Sunday, January 27, 2019

The House of Screaming Death – review

Director: David Hastings (segment)

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

The House of Screaming Death is a portmanteau film that is not only in the style of the classic British anthology film but it very much screams Amicus and the portmanteau’s they were famous for.

Ian McNeice as the Architect

In this case the film focuses on a house, with each story having a connection with the house in some way. These stories are told by the Architect (Ian McNeice) to an unseen audience and jump through time. It is a shame that the film was obviously shot on a budget, with workarounds used for locations and effects in places, as the concept was good. We mostly don’t get anachronisms within the segments – though in the one I am to look at an errant closed-circuit TV camera does appear on the side of the house, an unfortunate goof as the story is set in 1888 but ultimately forgivable as it was a rare slip.

Thomas and father malone
The story, entitled the Vampyre, follows Thomas Burlington (Brett Dewsbury) who has taken a rest break from the city and is due to stay in the house – which stands empty at the time. As he arrives, he takes in the churchyard and meets Father Malone (Charles O'Neill). Malone tells him of the mysterious deaths that previously plagued the area – twenty souls vanished a year before over a period of time but then, just as mysteriously, the killings stopped.

Slaughtered Wolf
Thomas falls asleep in a chair in the house and it is late when he awakens. He heads for the local pub anyway, hoping he can get some food. The pub uses the sign design of the Slaughtered Lamb from An American Werewolf in London but is renamed the Slaughtered Wolf – I think it might have worked better had it kept the previous film’s name. This is not the only vampire film to have used the famous film’s pub detail, though it was translated to French in the film Livid.

the pub
In the pub (one of the examples of making use of a limited set and angle to create the scene) Thomas decides it would be a good idea to commiserate the villagers over the recent disaster. It becomes clear that the villagers do not believe things are over and that they fear the clawed man (Matthew Kinson) – as they term him and Thomas is advised to beware the woods. Thomas’ cynical attitude annoys them and he is essentially encouraged to leave (though he is given the food he wanted).

the vampyre
Anyway, he eventually sees a figure creeping around the house, follows him and finds an underground lair in which a figure hides in the darkness. Despite his rather Nosferatu appearance (though the vampire remains in the dark corner of its lair, before finally revealing himself fully as the story develops towards its finale), Thomas thinks him a victim of the village superstitions, forced to hide from the villagers… Of course he is actually a vampire, but what does he want with Thomas – his blood or something more perhaps?

facing the vampire
I rather liked this, the director created a nice atmosphere and used sound really well to create an ominous air. The dialogue and delivery is a tad stagey, more so than other sections, with Thomas’ reaction to the man living underground more than a little naïve – though I could forgive the filmmakers the conceit. However, I would have liked more interaction filmed between the two, a little more depth to the relationship before the segment turned towards its climax. To be honest, the thing that let it down the most was the physical makeup for the vampire – we can see the creasing in the bald cap and the clay, which makes the vamp face, looks too false. It’s a shame. It wasn’t the best of the segments, overall, but I really did like the atmosphere generated.

Troy Dennison as the Caretaker
I should also mention that the house is actually named as a vampire in one of the segments, the Lady in Grey, an atmospheric ghost story piece that is narrated by the house’s caretaker (Troy Dennison), employed during the blitz. He suggests that “The house is a vampire, soaking up the lifeforce of its occupants like some ancient psychic battery.” Despite this, and the house's penchant for attracting supernatural disaster, the vampiric building concept isn't capitalised on. Be that as it may, I think that 5.5 out of 10 is fair for the segment the Vampyre – but it wasn’t the strongest segment and the whole has that Amicus feel that is very welcome.

The homepage for the film is here and each segment has a prelude video available to view. The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

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