Thursday, April 15, 2010

Terror in the Haunted House (1961)

Terror in the Haunted House

Written by Robert C. Dennis
Directed by Harold Daniels

Philip...Gerald Mohr
Sheila...Cathy O'Donnell

Philip and Sheila are two Americans living abroad in Switzerland, but now that they're beginning their life together as a married couple, they decide to move back to the States, and no amount of cheese, army knives, or politically neutral timepieces are going to convince them otherwise.

It's just too bad that Sheila has been suffering from these strange nightmares, ever since she and Philip first got together.  In these dreams, she is ascending a staircase in an old and mysterious house, headed upwards into the attic where she finds...

Well, we're not quite sure what she finds, because she never quite remembers when she wakes up.  But it slowly starts coming back to her when she realizes that their new American homestead is the very same one she has been dreaming about.

Calling it a haunted house is a bit of a deception.  It's more like a house of mystery, and not a terribly compelling one at that.  The characters are melodramatic and oftentimes annoying, except for the loony caretaker Jonah, who was melodramatic in a manic and fun sort of way.  There are no real special effects to speak of, and no true scares, so how effective this is as a horror movie is questionable.  The moody, convoluted plot line is more like something you would see spread out over the course of years on a soap opera, with a little dash of Freudian psychology thrown in for good measure.  And just in case you're unclear as to what's going on, just wait until the end, when everything is spelled out for you in such a way that blind children who don't speak the language could understand it.  Because actually showing it would take too much time and effort.

I will say this: while this initially seemed to be another ridiculous "drive-the-wife-insane" story (i.e. The Screaming Skull), it took a quick left turn into drastically different territory.  Which helped my overall impression of the film...but not by much.

Seemingly the only reason one would choose to watch this mediocre chiller is because it was filmed using a miraculous new process called PSYCHO-RAMA, which utilizes subliminal techniques to enhance the viewing experience.  Or some such hooey.  In essence, Psycho-Rama means that a piece of clip-art flashes across the screen for a fraction of a second before anything remotely spooky happens. 

It's not truly subliminal because your conscious mind still registers that it saw something, but it is truly annoying.  Rather than enhance the viewing experience, it actually distracts from it, because as soon as you see the flashing image, you know it's time to be scared, which actually counteracts the intention by dispensing with any possible element of surprise.

In my opinion, you will probably want to steer clear of this one unless you're a die-hard gimmick fanatic and you're looking to move beyond the (far superior) works of William Castle.

ALSO KNOWN AS: My World Dies Screaming

Not Rated
85 Minutes
Black and White
United States

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