Weekly Screening Write-Up: The Legend of Hell House

Time to get back to it. That’s the phrase that I’ve been repeating to myself lately regarding this blog. With various commitments to work, writing, family life, etc, I, like so many, have fallen into the realm of not having enough time to write and post. Hopefully, with this new strategy, that will change. As you may know, my writings here alternate between pieces on Religion and my own reactions to movies. The Religion articles typically take long to produce as there is more depth to them.

Therefore, for this new series, I will focus on short film reviews that will be posted weekly. Because I watch a fair (read: excessive) amount of movies and television series, it should not be difficult to write up short reviews on a weekly basis.

So here it is, I present my new “Weekly Screening Write-Up!” I’ll write about one new movie a week and see what reactions or discussions such films produce. For the inaugural entry, let me quickly run through a horror classic.


The Legend of Hell House (1973)

Director: John Hough

Written by: Richard Matheson (novel and screenplay)

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

Quick Plot Synopsis: 4 individuals, including a physicist, a psychic, and a previous occupant, spend a week in the notorious “Hell House,” a giant mansion that is reputed to be haunted. Previous occupants have either died, experienced horrific injuries, or suffered mental breakdowns. What is the horrifying secret of Hell House?


With the dozens of categories that one could label as a sub-genre of horror, one of my personal favorites just might be the “haunted house genre.” For me, it is the perfect format to demonstrate the art of subtlety, an outstanding and seemingly lost quality in horror films in general. Legend of Hell House fits perfectly into this category, following in the thread that began with The Old Dark House, moved into popcorn fare in the 1950s with The House on Haunted Hill, became psychological thrillers with The Haunting in 1963, and went big budget with Poltergeist in 1982. Tucked in 1970s is The Legend of Hell House, a film that relies on subtle noises and ghostly occurrences in order to build its tensions and scares. I thought the film worked very well. Of course some aspects were dated, but this did not distract from the tension of the story and believability of the characters. Because the film does not provide much “wow” factors of ghosts, the special effects remain minimalistic and therefore convincing. The nature of the ghost(s) within the film certainly contributed to the idea that the heroes were facing a malicious, evil presence. Also, because the characters are forced to stay an entire week in the house as opposed to the typical one night, we too feel their dread and growing paranoia as time passes. At an hour and a half, the film moves at a good pace and did not feel bogged down. I would certainly recommend this one to any horror fan.

Viewing Format:

I watched this on Netflix Instant Watch over the course of three evenings. I watched it on my smart phone with headphones. I normally do not advocate watching movies on phones, but this film’s sound design benefited from headphones.

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2 Responses to Weekly Screening Write-Up: The Legend of Hell House

  1. One of my favorites for sure. And I think it stands the test of time, as do most of Richard Matheson’s film adaptations. (Stir of Echoes, The Last Man on Earth, etc.). The sound design was remarkable, even without headphones. The whispering voices of Belasco seem to emanate from the corners of whatever room I watch it in 🙂

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