Dated, groovy, and mildly diverting fun, The Haunted House Of Horror is a film I have seen more than once, mainly because I always forget exactly how things play out. Once the finale unfolds, and the end credits start to roll, I then remember that there is good reason for this being so forgettable. It’s not that good.
But it is a Tigon film, and I always have a soft spot for Tigon (who gave us a couple of British horror greats, as well as a few more like this).
A bunch of lively young things decide to head to an allegedly haunted house and get up to what can only be described as shenanigans. That is all well and good until things take a dark turn when someone ends up dead. One of the group must have committed the murder, or maybe someone else joined them in the house, just waiting for their perfect moment to strike.
A whodunnit that doesn’t even bother about getting viewers invested in the solving of the mystery, The Haunted House Of Horror is best watched as a fun curio piece, especially when you consider that the cast features a main role for both Frankie Avalon and UK sitcom stalwart Richard O’Sullivan (a combination I don’t think is ever recreated in any other film).
Director Michael Armstrong, who also wrote the screenplay that was rewritten by Gerry Levy, seems to be more interested in allowing his cast to have fun than he is in creating any atmosphere and tension. Okay, the death may feel like an interesting “twist”, but the reactions of the other characters, who simply want to distance themselves from the corpse and hope to eventually find out who did it, makes everything feel much more relaxed and unimpactful (a word? it is now) than it should.
It doesn’t help that the cast isn’t full of great performers. Avalon may have been a successful pop star, but he doesn’t really work when placed in this particular film. O’Sullivan fares a bit better, the film making use of his easygoing and cheeky persona. Mark Wynter is slightly annoying in his role, but that is down to his character more than his performance, George Sewell adds potential threat as an older man obsessed with a young woman he has had a very brief affair with, and Julian Barnes is there to look sweet and soulful for many of his scenes. Jill Haworth, Gina Warwick, Carol Dilworth, and Veronica Doran generally do a bit better than their male counterparts, perhaps because they don’t just become one homogenized mass of swinging youngsters (as most of the men do).
I will never hate this film, I just can’t do it, despite knowing how much of it doesn’t really work. The two main songs on the soundtrack are irritating, the score by Reg Tilsley is even more forgettable than the murky visuals, and the slow pace is another nail in the coffin. As a horror movie, considering the lack of atmosphere, blood, and/or tension, it is a complete failure. But as a small slice of 1960s UK grooviness, I can still find enough to keep me amused and entertained.
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