Mother Karen Black, father Oliver Reed, young son Lee Montgomery and great-aunt BetteDavis escape New York to spend the summer at a country home. They get the huge mansion fora song, but the only catch is that they have to look after the aged owner of the house. Black takescharge of providing for the unseen old woman, and soon becomes dangerously obsessed withthe house. Strange accidents befall the family, and with each bad thing that happens to them, thehouse, which…began the summer as a dilapidated wreck, becomes more and more spruced up.Reed is convinced that something awful is happening, but Black is firmly in the house’s grip.The plot makes for interesting comparisons with The Shining, which would come along(in both novel and film form) a few years later. Both feature a spouse possessed by the evilhouse, though here the genders are reversed, and somehow Karen Black is presented far lesssympathetically than Jack Nicholson. The mounting unease is well handled, Reed goesconvincingly to pieces, and the climax is dark stuff. A solid haunted house film from the70s.
The sound is the original mono, and the lack of stereo remix isn’t the disappointment herethat it might be in, say The Amityville Horror. The music has a good, deep base, thedialogue is free of distortion, and there is a climactic rumble (I’ll let you discover what it is) thatsounds quite impressive, even in this form.
Be prepared for the film’s style of cinematography. The entire movie was shot in very softfocus. While this does add to the dream-like atmosphere, the result isn’t always happy on a DVDtransfer, where there is often the sense that a filmy layer hangs over everything, and the detailsof faces in anything approaching long-shot disappear altogether. One is more conscious of pixelsthan one would be watching the theatrical release, and this gets in the way of the intended effect.Still, the pastel colours come through well, and the transfer feels true to original film.
Director Dan Curtis is joined by his co-writer William F. Nolan and star Karen Black on thecommentary. Though Curtis dominates the discussion (sometimes shutting the other two down),one could only wish that all round-table commentaries were more like this, with the participantsstaying focussed on the film and providing us with no end of fascinating backgroundinformation. Also provided is the theatrical trailer. The main page of the menu is scored.
Between this, the recent release of the original The Haunting, and The Legendof Hell House, there are now plenty of really solid haunted house movies out on DVD. Don’tbe fooled by the soft-focus photography: this is a dark film.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer
- Audio Commentary