There are lots of Houses in moviedom. In the Fox Film Noir collection alone, there are three: The House on 92nd Street, The House on Telegraph Hill and House of Secrets. In the horror genre, we have the House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, The House on Haunted Hill, Hell House, The House That Dripped Blood, The House by the Cemetery and Horror House on Highway 5. There’s even just plain old House (plus its sequels). There are many others too, I’m sure, but they don’t come to mind immediately.
Now I can add House of the Living Dead to the mix. Also known as Curse of the Dead, this is a bit of a let-down from the get-go, with a title that hints of zombies or some other power from beyond the grave. Instead, we get a non-supernatural thriller that is at least unusual in its setting: a plantation in 19th Century southern Africa where the Brattling family lives. Michael Brattling is the lord of the manor, and as the movie begins, he is awaiting the appearance of his fiancée from England. She arrives and despite her love for Michael, can’t help but notice some odd things about the family. Her future mother-in-law keeps trying to get rid of her and Michael’s brother Breckinridge is living in the attic, apparently insane and doing some sort of strange experiments. People start dying, allegedly due to a ghost horse.
Now come the spoilers: for most savvy viewers, the fact that we never really see Michael’s brother is a good clue that he either doesn’t exist or at least isn’t alive. The muddled ending seems to imply that it’s Michael that’s dead and Breckinridge is impersonating him. This never really makes sense, as his fiancée doesn’t catch on, nor does the doctor who went to school with Breckinridge: wouldn’t he have noticed something when he met Michael? Maybe there is something I missed, but I was trying not to nod off during this film. Quality 3/10, Fun 3/10.
You don’t have to even be really savvy to guess the secret in Terror at Red Wolf Inn, the movie that came with House of the Living Dead on my DVD. Unfortunately, the movie’s heroine Regina is not very bright. As the movie opens, her college semester is just ending; based on what follows, my assumption is that she went to college either as a legacy or the school had very loose entrance requirements. She gets back to her apartment and finds a letter telling her she’s won a contest (which she didn’t even enter) and she won a free trip to the title location, a remote bed-and-breakfast. Regina is told she must leave immediately, and she goes off without telling anyone. She is given a chartered flight to some unknown destination, where she is picked up by the grandson of the Red Wolf Inn’s owners.
Is something fishy going on? You bet. Does Regina question why the phones never work? Or why there are all sorts of special meat dishes that the owners are very sketchy about? Why do the other guests disappear in the middle of the night, and why are the owners so secretive about their walk-in refrigerator? Even the rather dense Regina eventually catches on that something is amiss and that she may be the next main course. She’s not bright enough to work out a real escape plan, but she does have one advantage: the grandson, who’s even more slow-witted than Regina, has a thing for her.
Fortunately, much of this movie is played humorously and I think the viewers are meant to catch on even before the secret is revealed. The old couple that runs the place are the source of much of the humor with their combination of dottiness and malice. The fact that they’re wealthy explains the obviously wasteful way they go about getting their meals. For Regina alone, they have to find her and fly her out to their place. The way they kill off a person every night makes you think that they are not really getting their money’s worth, but it could be that the victims are all just in cold storage. Does the humor always work? Not really, but this is a bit better than the first movie. Quality 4/10. Fun 5/10.