Not to be confused with Chicho Ibáñez-Serrador’s 1969 Spanish film, this low-budget 16-mm production is a further entry in the haunted house genre, directed by Mark and John Polonia.
The film kicks off with a gratuitous shower sequence in which a woman soaps her breasts and a ridiculous introductory title crawl detailing the reasons why spectres of the dead haunt the lives of the living. We then get a montage of bizarre images featuring a skull, a couple of suicides, a child with an axe, a guy in bandages writhing on the floor, and intercut with footage of a gyrating stripper in red undies. Despite this wholly exploitative beginning, THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED is actually pretty atmospheric.
We are introduced to horror author Marty Beck (Bob Dennis), whose fiction (and sales) have nose-dived following the death of his wife and son in an accidental fire in their old home. He decides to seek inspiration for his new novel in new surroundings and rents a supposed haunted house in the Pennsylvanian woods. No sooner has he settled at his typewriter, Beck is experiencing a number of weird events. His dreams are haunted by ghostly apparitions, has flashbacks of his wife and child dying, and the Grim Reaper comes knocking at his door. He goes outside on the third morning to find an obese neighbour suggestively sliding her hands up and down the house porch supports and announces, “I love this house… I’d make love to it”… Beck offers her a cigarette, but one mysteriously appears in her hand, further weird montages ensue then later that evening the neighbour turns up for a bit of midnight roly-poly: queue footage of the two of them in bed, going at it hammer and tongs, before the scene ends with her woman a bloodied monstrous face.
Beck contacts his agent and is advised to leave the house, but decides to stay because the atmosphere of the surroundings is resulting in some great prose. But as events unfurl we are reintroduced to a benevolent spectral entity, killed in the civil war, who warns Beck that the house is filled with other spirits, many of whom are evil, and that in order for them to be free of the house, another soul from the land of the living must replace them.
Despite an incoherent plot that fails to tie up the many loose ends, incorporating spliced in exploitative footage at the request of the distributors, and the inclusion of several laughable scenes that include Dennis being attacked by a plastic doll, and another in which he is chased by a phantom in a cemetery, THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED is worth seeing for an unnerving sense of the ethereal that permeates the production. Featuring some distinctive cinematography from Mathew Smith, that utilises effective use of shadow, hallucinatory polarisation, and claustrophobic angling, and accompanied by a sinister soundtrack from Richard J. Coveleski, the film is an improvement on the Polonia Brothers previous SOV efforts, and also boasts a fairly good performance from Bob Dennis that carries the film in moments of pretentiousness, and pedestrian philosophising on the nature of the supernatural entities.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Mark and John Polonia
USA / 2000 / 90 minutes.
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
Trailers for the film, two for the sequel, "Hellgate" and "Dweller"
A Sub Rosa Studio DVD
All region. NTSC. Stereo.
THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED