The Legend of Hell House
- The Legend of Hell House
Halloween is fast approaching, and I am anticipating enjoying all that comes with it. Cool, crisp days. Leaves splashed with orange, red, and yellow colors—bonfires, pumpkins, roasting marshmallows, and Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes.
Okay, maybe not the burst of color in leaves as I live in the desert. I will enjoy the cooler temps and finally being able to open the windows in the evening. There is nothing like the scent of the desert at night.
Halloween is all about things that go bump in the night, including horror movies. One of my favorites is The Legend of Hell House, starring Roddy McDowell. If you are a horror fan, you will remember McDowell from another good film, Fright Night.
It came out in 1973 and is one of the earliest paranormal flicks about a haunted house. Rumors have it that the owner, Emeric Belasco had a dinner party at his mansion, then massacred everyone. The man was a psychopath and involved in the occult. Theories expounded on whether he was trying some preternatural event from his actions.
The energy from that horrifying day permeated the walls of the infamous structure. Now the place is alive – or is it?
The paranormal community believes such negative energy can affect the mansion and land. This hate and fear could create a haunted house of epic proportions. Eccentric millionaire Rudolph Deutsch wants that question answered. So, a few years later, he assembled a group of 27 investigators and psychics to investigate, and none of them escaped alive.
I lied. Roddy McDowell was the only psychic to survive. Still wanting an answer, Deutsch hired another bunch of scientists and psychics to investigate the haunted mansion. McDowell is a part of this second expedition, and his incentive is a million dollars if the group survives their stay at the infamous Belasco dwelling.
What can go wrong, right?
Physicist Dr. Lionel Barrett, the self-elected leader of the group, doesn’t believe in the paranormal. Barrett and his wife, Ann, will prove that the supposed haunting isn’t intelligent. He believes Belasco’s home is full of unfocused electromagnetic energy. Deutsch hired a few renowned psychics in case Barrett’s findings were inaccurate and locked the intrepid seekers inside for a week to solve the mystery.
Do the spirits of Belasco’s victims haunt the house, or is Barrett correct, and its unfocused electromagnetic energy?
Get ready for a rollercoaster ride. The house is creepy as all get out, and the music is spooky. Combining the atmosphere with weird music as part of the plot, you can’t help expecting something to happen.
It does, subtlety at first, then builds to a horrifying crescendo that will leave you wanting to see more.
The Legend of Hell House is reminiscent of the earlier gothic pictures. No blood or guts; strictly atmosphere and great acting. It starts slow, teasing us with morsels of fear, pulling us in and keeping us on the edge of our seats, waiting for the next compelling scene.
If you like puzzles and mysteries, you cannot help but love this feature. The conflict between science and the spiritual adds to the plot.
Convinced that Belasco’s son is a prisoner, Physical medium Florence Tanner tries to prove it to Barrett. Meanwhile, Barrett doesn’t believe in intelligent hauntings; he believes that the energy within the walls is residual without focus, and that difference in opinion creates tension. That tension manifests as a dangerous competition where they compete against one another to prove the other is wrong.
That focus prevents them from seeing they might both be incorrect and instead leads to making life-threatening mistakes.
While caught up in the melodrama between these two characters, we forget there is another psychic: Roddy McDowell’s character, Benjamin Franklin Fischer. Fischer is the only survivor from the first investigation.
He has made it clear to everyone that he is not using his abilities; he is staying shut down. Fischer says the house doesn’t mind visitors but will react aggressively if you go poking around.
Barrett is an antagonist focusing on proving he’s right, and everyone else has no clue. He accuses Fischer of being a coward, to which Fischer responds, but a live coward. He ignores his wife, who has no part in the film except as a sounding board for her husband. Ann has a couple of experiences that leave us wondering if she has finally had enough. Is she finally asserting herself as a person, or is something else affecting her, as Fischer believes?
The underlying theme is whether the house is alive or not. For the film’s first half, we don’t know – things happen, but the viewer doesn’t know if it’s the house. It is a known concept in the paranormal community that large amounts of electromagnetic energy can affect people. It can cause physical ailments such as headaches, nausea, and hallucinations which match what we see happening to the characters.
That unknown quality keeps us glued to our seats, watching the events unfold and waiting for answers. So, how does the story end?
You’ll have to watch it to find out. You won’t be disappointed because The Legend of Hell House is a great Halloween flick. I recommend watching it without the lights on.