1969's The Haunted House of Horror is Tigon Productions' answer to its more popular predecessor and role model, Hammer Films. Trying to bring back the hoary Old Dark House theme (a once-popular subgenre which sprang from the days of stage plays and radio serials), it's a decent attempt from first time director Michael Armstrong (who, the following year, would go on to make the notorious nasty, Mark of the Devil; then, nothing else but a slasher he did under a pseudonym 13 years later).
I think of this as Frankie Avalon's "haunted house bingo" — a silly story mostly made of fashion statements and slangy dialogue delivered by a slew of thirty-somethings cast as college kids. Swank Carnaby Street sets the proceedings into slow motion when Gary (played by singer / actor Mark Wynter) has a rather antagonistic coffee date chat with his simpering girlfriend, Dorothy (Carol Dilworth). In the U.S. remake, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Mark McGrath would play the couple. Across the way, a professional mannequin-dresser, sexpot Sylvia (Gina Warwick), is being stalked by her much-older spurned suitor, married man Kellett (George Sewell). In my imaginary U.S. remake, Kate Beckinsale and Vinne Jones will play this pair. The other main couple to be haunted are Chris (singer / actor Avalon) and Sheila (Jill Haworth), throwers of a boring party in their London flat — so dull, in fact, the entire crowd decides an abandoned murder house down the way will be a lot more fun.
Away the young'uns go, with shag-mad Sylvia's loathsome lothario skulking in tow. As expected, the house is old, dark, and scary. Someone dies horribly. The kids cover it up, but you can't keep a dead man down… well, you know the story. In this case, it's not terribly successful. Too much time is spent talking, and not enough stalking. However, considering the era and mores, the murder scenes (only two of them) are pretty damn brutal. The killer slashes back and forth ala Norman Bates in Psycho, then delivers a stabbing coup de grace as good as any giallo-style piercing. In fact, The Haunted House of Horror is almost a Brit-giallo; but it's not quite that entertaining. (And the neon-bright red fake blood kind of negates its effectiveness.)
There are a few funny things that make this Mod curio worth one look: the over-the-top catwalk fashions (cut-out mini dresses and knee high white go-go boots), the dingy dialogue ("He's the epitome of swingin' London!" says one character of American Chris), the outrageously zinging musical cues (revelation, reaction — da-da-daaaa!), and the blatant sizeism, ageism, and sexism (the poster showing a semi-nude woman marked up like a side of beef showing the prime cuts is especially dated).
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson