Monday, June 7, 2010

The Legend of Hell House

This is a great haunted house story from 1973, starring Pamela Franklin as Florence Tanner, a mental medium. Roddy McDowell as Ben Fisher, a physical medium and last survivor of a previous attempt to rid the evil of Belasco House. Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill), a physicist that is determined to unravel the secrets of Belasco House under strictly scientific terms. Dr. Barrett reluctantly brings his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt) along on this expedition. Brilliantly written in 1971 by horror master Richard Matheson, and brought to the screen by John Hough in 1973 under Richard Matheson's strictly written screenplay. Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill) is approached by a rich old eccentric who has one foot in the grave and is very adamant about learning about life after death. He recruits Dr. Barrett a physicist, Barret's wife Ann, Florence Tanner (a mental medium), and Benjamin Fisher (a physical medium). All will receive $100,000 for proof of the afterlife. The place, Belasco House, better known as Hell House, also known as "the Mt. Everest of haunted houses". Emeric Belasco was a pure deviant, who's escapades included drug addiction, beastiality, orgies, vampirism, murder, rape, cannibalism, ... among a selection of even more atrocious goodies. This ensures in everyone's mind that Emeric Belasco is the full power behind the haunting and the sole reason for the evil within. Upon entering the house, Ms. Tanner has a strong feeling that things are not what they they seem... and that the house is well aware that it's guests have arrived. Upon entering the house, they notice what appears to be a chapel, a sort of "Church in "Hell, just off the main hall. Again, ms. Tanner is repelled and cannot enter the church. (by the way, the crucifix has a devil's head). On with the tour: While the rest of the group is still touring the church. Ms. Tanner follows a sound and it is soon found the be a phonograph. Upon it is a "Welcome to my house thing, Hope you enjoy your visit, Don't get killed ... blah, blah, blah. sort of a thing" Florence does few "sittings" to try to make contact. The first on, she has spirits talk through her, the second, she emits ectoplasm, third time was all out poltergeist activity. The activity is then dubbed the physical manifestations that a mental medium usually cannot manifest. Ms Tanner was very surprised as everyone else, constantly repeating "But, Im only a mental medium". Soon after, Ms. Tanners is visited by what she feels to be Daniel Belasco. She had her linens thrown at her, by an obviously pissed off ghost, who even opened and slammed the door when he left. Ms.Tanner becomes rather fascinated with Daniel Belasco, even though everyone else in the group thinks that she's crazy and that there was no Daniel Belasco. With her mental abilities, Ms. Tanner searches the house for proof of Daniel Belasco... she finds him inside a wall, buried alive, chained to the wall, left for dead. Florence and Ben give Daniel an appropriate burial and funeral, but it doesn't seem to help. His spirit contacts Florence in a dream. The dream becomes erotic and Daniel appears to be having intercourse with her. She opens her eyes and screams. Upon responding to her scream, Ben comes to her aid and finds her hysterically laughing. At this point she is obviously possessed by "someone". Meanwhile, Ben remembers something Ms. Tanner said during a trance about "terminations and extremities" . He soon makes the connection that everyone on the group he went in with, when he was much younger.... one fell and broke both legs, one had a back injury that paralyzed him from the waist down, one lady's legs were accidentally burned near the fireplace. Fisher starts putting two and two together... "terminations and extremities"... legs. Meanwhile, Dr. Barrett is finishing a machine he arrived with called "The Reversor", that apparently has the ability to reverse any negative energy that still exists in the house. Thus, proving his theory that hauntings are just mindless energy that has yet to be expelled. Differing with Dr.Barrett's theory, Florence tries unsuccessfully to smash it. She hits the machine, Dr. Barrett hits her and knocks her out. She awakens and sneaks into the church unseen. She begs for Daniel to meet with her. She hears a creak, and turns around just in time to see the crucifix fall and crush her. Before she dies, she writes (in her own blood) the letter "B" in a circle. She whispers softly before she dies... "You tricked me.". Dr. Barrett sets up his machine and the others go outside. After the machine has performed it's capabilities, they re-enter, to find the house seemingly clear of ghosts. Dr. Barrett is overjoyed... until. Slowly, the Reversor starts to indicate negative energy and proves a failure. A failure that Dr. Barrett cannot comprehend. As the phenomena of evil swirls around him, he screams in anguish just before being crushed by a falling candelabra. This leaves only Ben and Ann. Ann is clueless, but Ben has it all figured out. He starts bitching at the church because that's where Belasco's visage remains. Ben starts making fun of Belasco's height. Extremities and terminations. Ben continues... You're mother was a bitch! You're probably not even 5 ft tall!! This causes the stained glass behind where the crucifix lay, to shatter and reveal a room. Upon entering, Belasco is right there (stuffed of course), with a glass of brandy in his hand. Ben takes his knife and stabs Belasco in the knee, finding a fake leg where a real one should be. He was so ashamed of his own shortness, he has his own legs cut off and wore fake ones instead. If thine eye offend thee... pluck it out. Just before leaving, they notice that the room in which Belasco lies is completely lined with lead, which was what rendered the Reversor ineffective. The End. Great stuff, huh?

I've read the book, simply titled "Hell House", and it's way more gruesome and sexually charged than the movie. A few examples: In the book, the crucifix doesn't have a devil's head. It looks like Jesus, but it's got a HUGE phallus. And when the crucifix falls on Ms. Tanner... it impales her right in the kootchie and sends a gush of blood down her inner thighs. When Daniel Belasco is making love to Florence, she opens her eyes and screams. She screams because when she opens her eyes, she sees a nasty corpse, dripping with maggots, having his way with her. The moat that surrounds the property is called "Bastard Bog", because so much debauchery was taking place that unwanted babies were being born on a regular basis and were constantly being thrown into the moat. When the sheets are seen moving in Ms. Tanners room, she is aroused when she sees the silhouette of a huge phallus just under the covers. After Ms. Tanner is possessed, she is found levitating with her legs wide open and dripping in maggots and blood. There's a scene where Ann (who was named Edith in the book) is forced to insert her tongue into Florence's vagina. For the movie, this obscene act was changed to a second absinthe induced seduction attempt on Ben Fisher. If you watch the timeline in the movie, it's the last week of December. The last line of the book, as Ann and Ben leave Belasco house for good is... Merry Christmas, Ann.

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