Legend of Hell House [1973]

Director: John Hough
Stars: Roddy McDowall, Gayle Hunnicutt, Pamela Franklin, Clive Revill, Roland Culver
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 95 minutes

Four people enter the Belasco Mansion, the so-called "Everest of haunted houses," hired by a dying millionaire to investigate the possibility of life after death. Physicist Clive Revill leads the quartet, which includes his wife Gayle Hunnicut and two mediums. Pamela Franklin, young and impulsive, immediately makes contact with what she perceives as a tortured spirit, while Roddy McDowall, the only survivor from the previous investigation 20 years ago, closes himself off completely, deathly afraid of the malevolent forces that crushed his former comrades in body and spirit. Science fiction and horror legend Richard Matheson, responsible for penning such horror classics as The Devil Rides Out and Roger Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum, brings a literate sensibility and a refreshing seriousness to the haunted-house genre with this adaptation of his novel Hell House. Director John Hough follows Matheson's lead with a moody but sober approach, balancing the physical threats of objects lethally leaping to life with the slow, subtle possession of the characters by a truly evil spirit. Parts of the script feel like so much scientific mumbo jumbo, with characters discussing the finer points of supernatural manifestation and ectoplasmic activity, but Hough's deliberate direction gives it the necessary solemnity to take it all seriously. --Sean Axmaker

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