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Click above to purchase "The Legend Of Hell House" at amazon.com

 

The Legend Of Hell House

review by Ren C.

 

Rated PG

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Running Time: 95 minutes

Starring Roddy McDowall, Pamela Franklin, Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicutt

Written by Richard Matheson, based upon his novel "Hell House"

Directed by John Hough

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 4.0, English Dolby Digital Mono, French Dolby Digital Mono, English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (20 Chapters)

Released: September 4th, 2001

"The Legend of Hell House" is a movie that puts its best foot forward, but ultimately fails to accomplish its mission. The plot of the movie is one that has been used a hundred times before, and I'm sure shows up in a write-your-own-hit-movie book. Eccentric millionaire hires team of sophisticated scientists and psychics to investigate a haunted house, and, in this case, find out what happens to people after they die.

Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill), a parapsychologist who is convinced that nothing is going on in the house heads the team. He is accompanied by two mediums, Ben Fischer (Roddy McDowall), a physical medium and Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), a spiritual medium. Rounding out those daring to enter Hell House is Lionel's wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), who is determined to accompany her husband to the house because in her logic, nothing has happened to him before and she is certain nothing will this time.

Hell House itself is supposedly inhabited by the ghost of the eccentric Emeric Belasco, whose character faults are gone into in some detail. With this information in mind, the team heads into Hell House with the promise that if they can determine what is going on within Hell House they will each be rewarded with $100,000 pounds. At first, the team seems to find nothing out of the ordinary, aside from a musty old house with a great deal of atmosphere. However, when Florence has a sitting to attempt to contact whatever is living in the house, things start flying about the room, leading the team to think something is amiss. This point is driven home even further when Florence has another encounter with the spirit, and becomes convinced that Belasco's son Daniel inhabits the house. Soon after this, the rest of the team starts to have bizarre incidents, including Ann, who is found sleepwalking and talking of an orgy by Ben. The question quickly becomes, can they find out the secret of Hell House, and can they do it before the "Mt. Everest of haunted houses" claims them as it has so many before?

Like I stated, this is a very well intentioned movie, but after having seen so many derivations of it in movies like "House on Haunted Hill", it tends to lose something. I will give the movie credit; however, as there are a couple of moments within the movie that are fairly tense for today's jaded movie viewer. Also, as something to look for, if you've seen the previews for "Scary Movie 2", and remember the cat scene, the original is here, and by watching this, the nod is definitely a fitting one. As a whole though, the movie doesn't really come through-the characters are one-dimensional, and never for a second did I buy that Hell House was the "Mt. Everest of haunted houses." This is one of those movies that you look at almost as a historical curiosity, and to wonder what would happen if this movie were made today.

For a movie that is nearly thirty years old, this looked better than I expected it to do, with a nice anamorphic transfer. Having said that, though, there were some places that the colors looked slightly washed out, showing some of the movie's age. In addition, there was grain and scratches at various intervals throughout the movie with one in particular toward the end of the movie being quite distracting. There was also an odd shimmering effect in several scenes, including one of the first outdoor scenes that were distracting.

A Dolby 4.0 track is provided here, and is surprisingly effective. This is a very dialogue driven movie, and the speakers were spread out in such a way that made it feel like they were on opposite sides of the room, table, or what have you. The ambient sounds within the movie were just that, present, but never overwhelming. I also have to note that the "spirit voice" is done in such a way to make it seem almost overpowering, which is quite impressive.

For a title like this, I wasn't really expecting a special edition, and I wasn't disappointed in that regard. The theatrical trailer is provided essentially telling the entire movie in about two minutes and definitely showing its age. I think someone at Fox was enjoying themselves when they picked the bonus trailers that were provided as we get trailers for "Batman: The Movie", "Bedazzled", "Big Trouble in Little China" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Movie". Cute.

Like I said, I think that this movie is of value only for historical interest or if you're a Roddy McDowall completist. The video and audio are nothing stellar, and the features are of interest only if you love trailers. However, Fox has been nice enough to price this reasonably, so if you are interested in the old-style horror movies, give this one a rent first and decide from there.

(2/5 - NOT included in final score)

(3.5/5)

(3.5/5)

(.5/5)

(2.5/5, NOT an average)

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