10 December 2004 | world_of_weird
Very unusual TV series that deserves a second look (SPOILERS!)
Hammer House Of Horror, with its Spinal Tap's 'Stonehenge' soundalike theme tune, casts of soon-to-be-famous actors and commendably nasty flair for nihilism and genuine nastiness slithered onto British television (on Saturday nights, too!) in 1980 and carved indelible scars in the collective subconscious of an entire generation. Sure, not all the episodes were up to the same standard, but the ones that worked - well, they were classics.
THE HOUSE THAT BLED TO DEATH is one of the most memorable episodes, and rightly so. I think this would have made a decent feature-length film. An apparently unsuspecting family moves into a house with a grim recent past and quickly realize that all is not as it should be. A series of horrible incidents (animal lovers should not even consider watching this episode) culminate in the notorious blood-soaked birthday party and the family moves away, but even that isn't the end of their problems. This episode has one of the most shocking and disturbing final scenes of the whole series and would make a nice companion piece to Romano Scavolini's NIGHTMARE (1981), released the following year. SILENT SCREAM is another excellent series entry, with Peter Cushing at his creepy best as a seemingly innocuous pet shop owner who turns out to be a former concentration camp guard with a penchant for unpleasant experiments involving "prisons without walls". The finale is extremely creepy and haunted my dreams for a long time when I was a child. THE TWO FACES OF EVIL goes all out to disturb, with creepy electronic music, claustrophobic camera angles, dopplegangers, nausea-inducing shocks and another troubling ending. It's the closest the series comes to straight horror for its own sake, and should NOT be watched alone!
After the excellent opening salvo of three brilliant episodes, the rest of the series can seem like a disappointment, but CHARLIE BOY, WITCHING HOUR, GROWING PAINS, THE MARK OF Satan and VISITOR FROM THE GRAVE are all fine stories (the latter boasting a completely wacko final scene that will have you muttering "what the hell was THAT?!"), RUDE AWAKENING is as bizarre as anything the late Dennis Potter ever came up with, THE CARPATHIAN EAGLE boasts the gorgeous Suzanne Danielle, THE THIRTEENTH REUNION is well-acted and macabre if a little predictable, and the remaining few episodes don't quite come off. Nonetheless, it's a pleasingly varied series that's consistently entertaining, and a reminder of a time when television treated adults like adults and had yet to dumb down to the levels of dreck like Freddy's Nightmares.