Judge Daryl Loomis finds half a cat to be ten times the luck of a single rabbit's foot.
Eight graves! Seven bodies! One killer…and he's already dead.
1974 was kind of a weird time for horror. The Hammer pictures from Britain had fallen by the wayside while more visceral, violent, and perverse material took its place. Italian and French entries gave genre fans both the bloodshed and the bare flesh that they craved and domestic entries started to get in on the taboo game, themselves. Soon, the market would respond with the slasher film, but that was still taking baby steps. While everything around it got a little more extreme, The House of Seven Corpses entered the market.
Facts of the Case
Eric Hartman (John Ireland, Red River) is directing an ultra-low budget horror feature in a home where a high percentage of its residents died horribly. Gayle Dorian (Faith Domergue, This Island Earth), his temperamental lead actress, is being terrible and the whole production looks like a disaster. Soon, though, things get worse when, against the wishes of the creepy caretaker (John Carradine, The Grapes of Wrath), the cast and crew start reading the occult literature littered around the house. As things get more tense around the set, the black magic affects them, quickly turning the location from a set to a graveyard.
The House of Seven Corpses would have made a lot more sense in 1944 than in 1974. It's the kind of movie that would remind grandparents of the kinds of matinees they'd see when they were kids while watching happily with their grandkids, who would be terribly bored, especially given that they may well have seen something like The Exorcist that same year.
While that doesn't make the movie bad, it does feel very old-fashioned and out of place in its time. The film-within-the-film business is the most modern and interesting part of the movie, giving us the chance to see a somewhat exaggerated low budget film production. It isn't that exaggerated, though, once you realize that a number of people appearing in the movie as crew are from the real movie crew making their debuts on screen.
Otherwise, this relic is perfectly decent and totally unremarkable. John Ireland and John Carradine appear to have had a contest going to see who could chew the most scenery (Ireland wins), but that's no real surprise if one has seen either of them in a horror movie before. Faith Domergue, no stranger to b-cinema herself, plays the aging diva believably, but her performance adds little to the overall impression.
While there are things to enjoy about The House of Seven Corpses, it is completely forgettable, mostly because it's patently unscary. It's pretty much a tease from start to finish, with obvious red herrings and an inexplicable ending. The only part with any tension is the opening, but once the curtain is pulled back to reveal that it's a film scene, all momentum is lost and get ready to be disappointed when you realize that was the best it was going to get.
The good folks at Severin have done their usual terrific job on their Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of The House of Seven Corpses. The 1.85:1/1080p image is, for the most part, very sharp. It has a nice grain structure and reasonably good detail throughout the frame, with realistic colors and fairly deep black levels. There are a few instances of damage to the print, but given its age and obscurity, they are negligible. The sound is decent, but not as strong as the image. The simple Dolby 2.0 mono mix is mostly free of noise, but overall, it's pretty flat and unremarkable.
For extras, we start with an audio commentary featuring associate producer Gary Kent with Lars Nilsen of the Alamo Drafthouse. They have a nice, lively conversation about the film, comparing the film-with-a-film to the realities of low budget film production and talking about all the different times and reasons that John Carradine would be "in his cups." The other major extra is a lengthy archival interview with Carradine, who is more than happy to talk about himself. While the moderator wants to focus on the actor's horror career, Carradine brushes his questions off, preferring to discuss how horror is no good anymore and how great an actor he is. It's perfectly interesting, but Carradine comes off as a pretentious old fool for much of it. A trailer rounds out the disc.
The House of Seven Corpses isn't going to blow anybody away, but it's a perfectly serviceable spook house movie. It's very old fashioned and only of moderate interest, but I could see wasting a rainy afternoon with it. It has particular value for fans of the genre work of Ireland and Carradine, but is otherwise not worth a ton. It's good enough to warrant a very mild recommendation, but not much else.
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