29 June 2004 | The_Void
One of the finest British horror films
Horror omnibus films were popular in the seventies. I'm not very fond of them myself, but this one is an undeniably excellent slice of British horror cinema. The House That Dripped Blood is a horror omnibus, featuring four stories that surround a creepy old house in the country and are being told to a Scotland Yard officer by an estate agent.
This film is headlined by three well known stars of horror cinema; Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt, whom horror fans will recognise as one of Lee's co-stars in the greatest British horror film of all time; The Wicker Man.
The first segment of the film, titled "Method For Murder" tells the story of a horror storywriter, whose creation; a strangler named "Dominic" is brought to life by his own imagination. This story builds suspense very well; through his girlfriend, he, and the audience is lead to believe that what he is seeing is a figment of his imagination. This story certainly isn't very original, but it makes up for its lack of originality through the atmosphere it creates and it's final twist; which works incredibly well and came as a genuine surprise.
The second story, titled "Waxworks", stars Peter Cushing and is my least favourite of the four. This tale follows the story of Phillip Grayson (Cushing), a man that discovers a wax museum and decides to venture in. Inside, he discovers a woman that is familiar to him and who we later find out is a murderess. Quite what the woman's relationship with Phillip entailed is never really explained, but the tale relies more on the mystery to build the suspense rather than plot details. Cushing is later joined by his friend, Neville Rogers (played by Joss Ackland) and that's when the tale really starts to pick up. The setting of a waxwork museum full of murderers for a horror film isn't a new idea; the same setting was used to great effect in the excellent 1966 horror film, "Chamber of Horrors". Although the one here isn't as grand as the one in the aforementioned film, the power of the setting is used to no lesser a horrifying effect, much of which is achieved by a feeling of claustrophobia, brought about by the limited area of the museum. Peter Cushing is always interesting to watch, and seeing him avoid an axe-wielding madman is a treat for the horror fan. Despite being my least favourite, this story is still entertaining and interesting enough to not let this anthology down.
The film continues with "Sweets for the Sweet", which is without doubt the best of the omnibus. This story stars the legendary Christopher Lee as a seemingly overprotective father. The beauty of this story comes from the way it is played out. It leaves the audience guessing; we know that there is something wrong with either the father or the daughter, but we don't know who, or what, it is. Christopher Lee, as usual, portrays his character with a great degree of sinisterness; the audience is left to simmer over his actions regarding giving his daughter a doll, and the fact that she isn't allowed to go to school or have any toys. The card of exactly why is held close to the chest until right near the end, epitomised by the truly chilling line in which Lee tells his babysitter that he is, in fact, afraid of his daughter. The ending to this section is superbly played out, in my opinion it's one of the finest endings to any horror story ever told, and will stay with you long after the end credits roll.
The omnibus finishes with "The Cloak", which is definitely the most comedic of the four. This tale is about a hammy horror film star that, unimpressed by his latest film's technical side, goes out and buys himself a cloak. Naturally, this cloak turns out to be a real vampire cloak. Unlike the other three tales, this one seems to be played out mostly for laughs. That is no bad thing however as the majority of the humour is funny and it serves as a nice contrast to the rest of the film. The ending to this tale coincides nicely with the ending to the wraparound story of the film, which is a very sinister yet humorous ending to a very good film. Also, look out for the little jibe regarding Christopher Lee in Dracula. A nice touch, I think.
Overall, if you want a horror omnibus, you really cant go wrong with The House that Dripped Blood. The third tale alone makes the film worthy of your time and this is a very solid horror film indeed.