Vincent Price had and long a storied career that streaches from his days as a leading man in The House of the Seven Gables (1940), through the classic horror era and the AIP Poe flicks, and ending in a string of underwhelming roles in the late 1980’s. While he capped his career off with a bittersweet turn in Tim Burton’s Edward Sissorhands (1990), it was only 6 years before that he showed up to work on tonight’s film. I say showed up because that’s the way it appears. Price’s role is memorable but small, and I expect that it took no more than one or two days of shooting to wrap. That being said it is the most memorable part of the feature, and so begins the tale of the…
Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984) starring Kenny Everett, Pamela Stephenson, and Vincent Price. Directed by Ray Cameron.
It was August 12th 1975, a Thursday, give or take a day, and the residents of Headstone manner were slaughtered in a variety of ghoulish ways. They were axed to death, hung, spontaneously combusted, placed in a freezer, and a group of them skewered in bed. All of the deeds were enacted by a group of red hooded monks who silently prowled the night.
Now it’s 1983, and a group of scientists, lead by Dr. Lukas Mandeville( (Everett) and his partner Dr. Barbara Coyle (Stephenson), are being dispatched in investigate strange radiation coming from the house. Little do they know the whole town belongs to a cult lead by The Sinister Man (Price) and the house is a sacred site to them. When the scientists begin to inhabit the house, the cult soon finds ways to dispatch them in order to summon their demon lord.
–Director Ray Cameron never made another film. He did serve as director of Kenny Everett’s long running comedy show on British TV.
–Pamela Stephenson who had appeared in Mel Brook’s History of the World Part 1, would go on to join the cast of Saturday Night Live for the 1984-85 season. She is now married to comedian Billy Connelly and they have 3 children.
–Hugh Gordon who handled the film’s optical effects never did any more work in the movies which is probably just as well.
The Bug Speaks
This is the kind of movie that had it’s heart in the right place. It was attempting to be a farce of the conventions overwhelming horror movies in the early eighties grafted on the the more traditional English drawing room mystery. So while the film has nods to The Amityville Horror, Nightmare on Elm Street, Jaws, and Alien, it still maintains a very British feel to the goings on. This is not entirely a bad thing. Many of the jokes are cleverly played, and unlike many other comedies of this ilk there are no wasted lines. Any joke they start really does seem to get a payoff, be it five seconds or five minutes down the line. I appreciate this in a film as it makes for an interesting watch.
Price, showing up for a paycheck, does a very entertaining turn as “The Sinister Man”. He clearly is relishing his chance to play against type as the frustrated cult leader. Perhaps the best bit of nonsense from him comes when one of his minions tells him to “Piss off.”. After a lengthy oration about how he has lived 700 years in obedient service to their dark lord he informs the minion that they could be the one’s to “Piss off.” Price is clearly playing as far over the top as he can reach and having a great time doing it. I can’t really criticize his performance too much as it achieves was was intended.
As for the rest of the cast, apart from Everett and Stephenson they were forgettable. Each one seems to have some kind of darkly humorous back story which play to popular horror film conventions. The only one that stood out was a Carrie nod where a girl slices her mom’s head off with a can opener. Everett and Stephenson do an admirable job keeping the film afloat, but the pacing of the script and it’s plodding barrage of corny jokes soon weigh it down.
This is a film that is definitely only suited for Price fans, or anyone who wants to check out horror comedy with a British twist. For the latter you would just be better off watching Shawn of the Dead again, and for the former, just pop in Dr Phibes for another watch.