“Drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, beastiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies. Shall I go on?”
Emeric Belasco had one hell of a party. It was the twenties so the lasciviousness probably involved women jumping out of cakes before the necrophilia. Belasco built a house to contain this experiment in debauchery. They had fun from 1918 till the late twenties when someone called the cops about the noise and it was discovered all the guests were dead and Belasco himself was missing. Now the mansion nicknamed Hell House has a reputation as “The Mount Everest of Haunted Houses.”
This is where the eccentric old millionaire Deutsch comes in. he’s offering 100,000 pounds to spend a week in Hell House and bring back proof of life after death. Deutsch has no idea that you can hire plumbers for this kind of job now. If TAPS isn’t available there’s no shortage of hunky TV hosts that will take off their shirts and investigate ghosts. Instead he hires a scientist who brings in renowned psychics one of them being a survivor of the disastrous 1953 expedition.
The house itself is what works in this movie. It’s dark and claustrophobic with lots of neat details built in. HH Holmes built himself a funhouse of death just like this in Chicago. The only difference is that Emeric Belasco decided he’d keep on having fun after he was dead. So they lock up the minimal cast and set up the age old argument is it scientific or is it a haunting. One of the psychics, the repressed Ann, gets over stimulated, and starts going the Devil in Miss Jones while the others succumb in their own way to the atmosphere of the house with the exception of Fischer (Roddy McDowell) who’s already nuts and is just there to collect a check.
Furniture and flatware fly about and someone gets possessed and we get more arguments about science vs. spiritualism. Ann just needs to get laid and things just go to hell in general and we get the idea that the Hell House is going to have a few more permanent guests. Yes it’s all a cliché and yes the book had a lot more graphic description but this is because it’s the one that a lot of other cinematic haunted houses imitated and it was the seventies and you couldn’t put that kind of thing on the screen back then.
Where the Legend of Hell House really succeeds is with a viewer like me that loves to take the suggestion of a movie and think what if. You might find it hard to believe but something on the internet shocked me last week. When I mentioned this online people instantly began asking for the link. Are we that Jaded? It made me think of the Belasco mansion. The place could be opened as a bed and breakfast today and some of the guests would be making the ectoplasmic manifestations go “What the Fuck!”
If Deutsch came to me and offered cash to stay a week in the Belasco mansion I’d know just who to bring. First would be Jenny and James, J&J need a honeymoon and a week in the Belasco mansion would be just perfect for two horror fans. Jenny would need someone to argue science versus spirituality with so I’d bring Acadia too and if Acadia went then Vange would have to go to keep him from getting locked in the haunted wine cellar without the right gizmo. I’d bring Patrick to help with me with the measuring because he’d think it’s cool to find all of Belasco’s gimmicks and for celebrity guests I’d bring Carrot Top and Lindsay Lohan. Carrot Top because nobody would care if the ghosts ate him and Lindsay because she could make the ectoplasmic manifestations go “What the Fuck?” See you don’t need any plot at all and if Vange plays with the pussy it’s just a big bonus on top of the 19,649.72 USD.
Is it scary? It is for me. There’s no graphic buckets of blood but there’s that niggling idea in the back of your head that it might be possible.