GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED ***
Directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador.
Starring Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, Mary Maude, Maribel Martín, John Moulder Brown.
Horror/Thriller, Spain, 105 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray via Arrow Video on 6th March 2023.
Have you ever seen those alluring pulp novel covers from the 1960s and ‘70s that usually depict a visibly distressed woman, usually dressed in a flimsy white negligee or something similar as body parts suggestively pop out, and running away from a dark castle or mansion as a storm brews in the background? If you have then you’ll have a pretty good idea what THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED is like as it is basically one of those book covers made into a movie.
However, unlike the lurid descriptions of things that happen in those novels, this movie is very restrained when it comes to what it shows as THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED is a Spanish movie from 1969, which means that the filmmakers weren’t allowed to show very much when it came to naked body parts as this was the era of censorship under General Franco, but don’t be disheartened if that is what you came for because director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador has a damn good go at getting a few things under the radar, as it were, and it is that sense of mischievous titillation and underlying dread that permeates nearly every frame and puts the movie in the same ballpark as the Italian gialli of the time.
There is also a huge Hammer vibe to THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED as the movie seems to echo much of the gothic splendour – and some of the plot details - of 1960s THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, only without the vampires. That is because the horror in this movie is provided by the impending sense of dread that something bad is always going to happen, plus there is more than a nod to Poe throughout, especially when it comes to the final act, but before then we have the melodrama of spending time with the girls in a 19th-century boarding school which is run by strict headmistress Señora Fourneau (Lilli Palmer)
Señora Fourneau has a teenage son called Luis (John Moulder Brown) who lives in the building but is forbidden to fraternise with the girls. Naturally, this doesn’t stop him from sneaking around and meeting up with certain girls at certain times, and when the girls misbehave they get a whipping from the headmistress and her protégé Irene (Mary Maude), a senior student who delights in dishing out punishment to the other girls. New girl Theresa (Cristina Galbó) becomes the object of Luis’s desires and also Irene’s bullying when the older student discovers that Theresa’s mother was a prostitute, culminating in a fight to escape the school (during a storm, of course), a game of cat and mouse through the dark corridors, and Irene beginning to question her mentor as to where several of the school’s pupils have disappeared to and why they have not returned.
Given Arrow’s recent high profile releases, this release feels a little low-key and underwhelming when you first look at the specs but given that Arrow built its name on polishing up and repackaging obscure cult movies, THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED fills that original brief nicely. Apparently influencing Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA – which is very obvious when you look at it – THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED is a moody and atmospheric chiller whose narrative restrictions give it a very old-fashioned feel; perhaps a little too old-fashioned for audiences looking to satisfy their horror itch as it contains very little blood or anything shocking, but it does tick along at a steady pace, which gives you plenty of time to soak in those gorgeous set designs and costumes. The performances are all pretty solid, despite some dubious dubbing, but nobody goes too over-the-top, as can often be the case in a lot of gialli, keeping the tone as understated as the naked flesh content – how many school headmistresses would really make their students shower in their nightdresses? Not entirely realistic it may be, but Narciso Ibáñez Serrador handles the more provocative scenes with just the right amount of taste and tease.
Overall, THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED is a bit of a plodder when it comes to its story as it hasn’t really got much of one, relying more on its style and mood as its more attractive qualities. However, that doesn’t make it a bad movie, and if you are tuned into slow-burning gothic nightmares, preferring heightened tension over graphic horror, then THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED is a strong recommend.
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans