It’s an understatement to say not all horror anthologies are created equal. Admittedly, the sub-genre has earned its reputation as a mostly crummy category. Even the most notable exceptions are often only notable for a single vignette, but there are some excellent standouts. Trick ‘r Treat comes to mind, as does Creepshow. Even those films might not rank amongst the greatest horror films of all time, and I’m sad to say, neither does Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. The first in a series of five anthologies from Amicus, this dull and precious film is an unbelievable waste of talent.
A mysterious psychic (Peter Cushing) insinuates himself into a train car with five strangers, including characters played by Donald Sutherland and Christopher Lee. He draws each of them a card to foretell their deaths via five supernatural elements: a werewolf, an intelligent vine, voodoo, a disembodied hand, and a vampire. Though one might find some charm in the film’s low-budget and superfluous exploits, it doesn’t offer a single moment of genuine fright. Flatly shot and oddly paced, the film gives a palpably indifferent feeling, as though this weren’t the start of a franchise, but the end of one. The stories are predictable and silly, and play like barrel-bottom scrapings.
That’s a shock, considering this project was the start of a series which produced the well-liked House That Dripped Blood, and a film I reviewed for The Archivist, From Beyond The Grave. Both of them, though scattershot, yielded a few tales several cuts far above anything in House Of Horrors. Considering the pedigree of its cast, it’s hard to believe this film could be so boring as well unimaginative. Even with Michael Gough (whose hand does the haunting in the only slightly clever episode), and the rest of these beloved actors doing their eerie best. I found it hard to stick with this lifeless entry into the genre.
Some credit is due where the voodoo segment is concerned, however. Real life jazz trumpeter and actor, Roy Castle, lures the ire of a witchdoctor when he brings the rhythms of the tribe back to London, where he incorporates it into one of his compositions (with the help of Tubby Hayes and Kenny Lynch). Turns out, the beat is sacred, and its pounding envelops the club with a whirlwind. That might be the most entertaining idea in the whole film, and more importantly, the jazz number is totally sick. If you can find the clip on youtube, I would honestly recommend watching that over the rest of this tired affair.
This one is for the real classic horror cultists, only.