HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR (1980)
This TV series from Britain is finally making it's debut stateside with all of the footage intact. All appearances in the U.S. were shortened and had the naughty bits cut for broadcast. There are thirteen episodes all with different casts and directors. I will review them as I actually watch them.
The first episode is called WITCHING TIME and deals with madness and a modern day incarnation of a witch. A man in his thirties who scores horror films for a living suspects (rightly so) that his wife is having an affair. One evening while she is away boning the local doctor a freak storm happens and our hero finds a red-headed woman asleep in the stable. She claims to be a witch from the sixteen hundreds. Soon she is turning his already messed up life into a mockery. He calls his friend the Doctor for help but it only convinces the both of them he is losing his shit. Soon the witch has seduced him and claimed him as her own. Just in time for his wife to come back around out of concern. Then things get really weird for everyone.
The lead character is a whiny little goofball, making it hard to be too concerned with him. But the fact that both the wife and her lover are concerned about him and try to do what they can to help is a nice touch. Instead of the wife and lover teaming up to kill the husband, then spend a great deal of time trying to help his disturbed frame of mind. It is a nice sideways look at a typical situation for these kinds of films. The finale gets a little silly as fire, water and voodoo dolls all come into the mix. But over all it is a fun, if a bit silly, entrance into the show.
The next episode is called THE THIRTEENTH REUNION and is directed by Hammer stalwart Peter Sasdy. This entry deals with a reporter for the local women's magazine who is assigned a story on the local weight loss guru. She meets and almost falls for a heavy guy who takes a pill he was given from the Guru and goes batshit crazy driving off the road and into a tree. She teams up with an amateur sleuth and they investigate the killing. They soon discover there is something much more sinister than just weight loss going on. Think a modern, somewhat higher tech BURKE AND HARE.With some implied cannibalism thrown in for good measure.
An early scene in this episode involves the Guru leading a group therapy session, Here he berates a middle aged, heavy set women for her weight problem, screaming at her that she is “fat and disgusting” and how her husband could never want to be around “Such a fat cow” like her. While the show spends most of the time being a fairly straight forward horror/thriller piece it never hits the repellant heights of this disturbing scene again. It is cruel, unpleasant and downright upsetting to watch. You REALLY want to see him get some sort of comeuppance before the piece is over.
These first two episodes are vastly different from each other in approach and content. I am quite interested to see how the other eleven play out.
Review © Andrew Copp