Monday, October 10, 2011

Fright House – review

Director: Len Anthony

First Released: 1989

Contains spoilers

Fright House was two separate films stitched together with a rather redundant portmanteau concerning a house (which could talk) chilling us by telling a tale… though the portmanteau section got lost within the first story, also called Fright House.

This story is a tale of satanic sacrifice and police ineptness and normally we would gloss over this section but there is a vampiric element in it… sort of… kind of… ish!

Al Lewis as Levi
It tells the tale of the Vincent Mansion, an abandoned place where several students have allegedly committed suicide – in reality sacrificed by a satanic cult. The latest to die is a young man called Karl, but he believed that the house was at a point where a gate to Hell could be opened. He had confessed this to a priest, who had died – scared to death in his confessional – and his brother, a hardnosed cop called Les (Paul Borghese, Vampire’s Embrace). Les realises that all the suicides where patients of the same psychiatrist – a fact ‘overlooked’ by his creepy Captain, Levi (Al Lewis, My Grandpa is a Vampire, The Munsters, Munsters go Home, The Munsters’ Revenge & the Munster’s Scary Little Christmas).

fanged 'suicide' victim
So, where are the vampires? Well we kind of get them, as I say. We see a face, at one point, splashed in blood. Eyes open and fangs are flashed. This is one of the suicides and, apparently, all the suicide graves have been desecrated and the bodies stolen. In truth these undead servants might have fangs but they act sort of zombie like. So in truth, perhaps they are zompires. Later, as levi reveals himself to be the big bad of the episode (well he had to be, didn’t he), Les calls him a bloodsucker. Levi retorts that they are vampires, he is a demon.

The first film was confused, with a fractured narrative structure and poor plotting. The second film was just as bad! Director Len Anthony released a film entitled Vampires three years earlier and, given the same cast involvement, it appears this was the same film renamed.

Madeline and the machine
It concerns Madeline Abadon (Jackie James), a woman who runs the Abadon School for art – in a place that was previously her father’s asylum. She is an energy vampire. Her father developed a machine that could syphon off positive energy from a person so that it could be fed upon and that would keep the user young – the user becoming older if they don’t feed. Madeline was around in France some 75 years before, and this is one thing that doesn’t add up in the film.

Duane Jones as Harmon
You see she had a relationship with a Dr. Charles Harmon (Duane Jones, Ganja and Hess). We see footage of her in Paris 75 years before and they were together in Paris – presumably at that time. He is an energy vampire too, albeit a more moral one, though as he doesn’t have the machine one wonders how. We do see books by Madeline’s father inscribed to Harmon – further confirming the date. He discovers she had his child, Debbie (Robin Michaels), and gave her up for adoption in Paris… but Debbie is at the school and supposedly around twenty years old. The dates don't seem to add up and some clarity might have been useful.

rapid aging
We also hear that her father is around but contained in the house – he became completely negative, a feral and voracious eater of energy. He seems to have got out of containment and turns some of his victims into mindless thralls – later we see mummified but still animated victims; referred to as mummys in the credits and reminiscent of the aged vampires in the Hunger. What her father is up to is beyond me, perhaps however it was he who was the force behind the toilet that sucked the belongings of a girl, as well as the girl and her boyfriend, into said toilet (the people eating aspect was off screen). I kid you not – a teen eating (or at least sucking) toilet.

The film is incoherent and generally not well acted – though Duane Jones is superb and blows every other actor off set. If I had seen the second segment on its own the score might have been even lower than that I have given but the presence of Al Lewis in the first part does elevate it ever so slightly (always a pleasure to see him, if not a pleasure to see the rest of his film) and the first part does have a vampire aspect. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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