“But it’s awful! How can you be so calm?”
Story: Rain and Britain go together like peanut butter and jelly. But one night in Wales things get really bad, with a mudslide stranding travelers in the middle of the night. But hey, isn’t that a house over there? 🎵There’s a light…🎵 Wait. This ain’t Rocky Horror.
Scares: Lots of creepy chills, and old fashioned spooky.
Splat factor: Oh please. It’s 1932. Not a drop.
Closing scene “shocker”?: None! Everything gets wrapped up in a bow.
Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Based on the story “Benighted” by J.B. Priestley. Though you’re bound to notice a lot of Gothic genre tropes, this is the film that started ’em.
Trick or Treat?: A creepy house film directed by James Whale? If you’re thinking this is gonna be awesome, you’re right. Boris Karloff is unrecognizable as the Fenn family dogsbody Morgan, and though he doesn’t have a single line, as with Frankenstein he emotes perfectly through movement and facial expression. It’s a chilling performance.
GREAT use of camera angles, reflections, and shadows. While the film is mostly shot as you would an on stage production (as were a majority of films in the golden age), moments of brilliant cinematography stand out. As does a very young Charles Laughton as blowhard-with-a-heart Sir William Porterhouse.
And it’s 1932, which means pre-Hayes Code y’all! Yep there’s a woman in her underwear, a couple making out in a car, super-strong hints of sexual predation by Morgan, and lots of booze. Hmm… There’s lots here that later films copied, from lights going out to the double locked door on the top floor. And that this film deals with so many subjects soon to be labeled taboo by Hayes-fearful studios, it’s a film that’s surprisingly fresh today.
As the night goes on, the characters true personalities – and the truth of the house’s family – are revealed. There’s a nice bit of drawing room comedy in between the spooky-time, and Whale balances things nicely. Things get over the top at the climax, but it’s a perfect level of camp for a movie that’s playing to the cheap seats.
If you haven’t seen this one yet, give it a look.
Score: 5 out of 5 pumpkins.