By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: House haunted by hookers.
This review will start off a month long theme where in celebration of Halloween every 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s movie reviewed will be a horror one. This film sat in pretty much obscurity until being released by Blue Underground onto DVD and Blu-ray on June 28th. The story deals with Lauren (Robin Groves) a writer who rents an old house that looks strangely similar to the one depicted on the cover of her last novel. Eerie events start to happen and she learns that the building used to be a house of ill-repute and the prostitutes who were murdered there in cold blood are now coming back in ghostly form to seek revenge.
The film was directed by Armand Weston best known for directing porn movies during the 70’s including a couple of edgy, envelope pushing rape and revenge sagas The Taking of Christina and The Defiance of Good. The directing here is competent enough that it is watchable, but the scares and horror is at a minimum. There are a few moments of creepiness and atmosphere, but it is not sustained and the film is unable to build any momentum, or suspense. The result is rather disjointed and unfocused. The premise borders on being campy and a 104 minute run time is way too long for a plot that offers a meager payoff.
Groves is an unusual choice for the lead. Usually films in this genre cast young college age girls in these roles with high sex appeal and skimpy outfits so that way they will be able to hold the viewer’s (males) attention during the slow parts of which there are many. Groves on the other hand is middle-aged, has an oversized mouth, and a hyper personality that seems better suited for comedy. She does end up having a nude scene, which isn’t bad, but I still felt she wasn’t the right fit.
I did like the idea that the character is given some unusual traits including suffering from agoraphobia (the extreme fear of the outside world) and a kooky creative personality that initially embraces the scares that she receives in the home because she feels it will help stimulate her artistic process. However, the film does not pursue these ideas enough and by the end seemed to have completely forgotten about them.
I was disappointed that Gloria Grahame an Academy Award winning actress was given such little screen time and actually doesn’t even utter a line of dialogue until the final 15 minutes of the movie. This woman was a leading lady during the 40’s and 50’s, but had the misfortune of marrying director Nicholas Ray and then having an affair with Ray’s 17 year old son from a different marriage. She eventually married the son and even had two kids with him, but the resulting scandal ruined her career and demoted her to B-movies afterwards. Still I thought she looked terrific and was better looking than Groves even though she was in real-life twenty-five years older than her. Her best moment is when she crosses a street and then gets hit in rather graphic fashion and run over by a speeding car that gets repeated several times.
Veteran actor John Carradine also appears, but I wished they hadn’t even bothered with him. He appears frail and elderly and speaks his lines in a mumbling fashion.
I did like that the movie was filmed on-location at the Armour-Stiner house in Irvington, New York. This is a unique domed octagonal residence built in 1860 and one of the few left standing. There is even an outdoor scene filmed on the home’s roof where Lauren’s analyst (Patrick Farrelly) falls from a ledge and gets impaled by a weather vane, which proves to be the film’s best gory moment.
The wrap-up and explanation for why Lauren was so strangely attracted to the home is actually kind of neat. I also liked the scene recreating the murderous events where everybody ends up getting shot one-by-one in slow motion. However, the script was in bad need of trimming and revision. There also should have been more special effects sprinkled throughout the production instead of just cramming them all in during the film’s fiery finale.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: May 3, 1981
Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes
Director: Armand Weston
Studio: William Mishkin Motion Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video