And so is watching some movies, pal.
Upon finding yourself on the set of a horror film or hell, ANY film where someone starts reading from a musty old book written in an indecipherable language, Rule Number One is this: LEAVE. You want examples? Sure. Equinox, The Evil Dead, In The Mouth of Madness, The Beyond, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, The Ninth Gate, and so forth and so on. ALL of these flicks were initially rom-coms until someone on set decided to crack open a nasty, smelly old book they found, bought, pilfered or borrowed and all hell lit-er-al-ly broke loose.
Okay, not really. But you know you’re in for a deadly day for night shoot when there’s an old tome read and not much common sense exhibited by the cast once stuff starts going south. Sadly, 1974’s The House of Seven Corpses isn’t as good or fun enough a flick to watch as the above mentioned ones, wasting its tome (ha!) with too much “exposition” from annoying characters, John Carradine phoning in a performance from a better, scarier but campier film, and some slightly to moderately creepy undead that whittle down the cast and crew of a
romantic comedy cheapie horror flick one by one.
It’s probably not a big co-inkydink that the film was produced by a company called Television Corporation of America, as save for a few moments, this looks and feels like a TV movie of the era. No, that’s not a complement.
Plot: Cheapie horror flick being made in a house where seven died as a result of some dummy reading a bad book. Cranky, unlikable director (John Ireland) wants that authenticity and verisimilitude, so yep, out comes that old book, which leads to predictable outcomes for all. The End. Yeah, this one’s a total yawner save for the final sequence, folks. Still, it’s worth a watch for the “behind the scenes” bits where you see the film within a film being made that show making the magic happen isn’t so magical at all.
The film isn’t “bad” as much as it’s boring, wasting the talents of formerly famous for a few things Ireland as that director and the lovely Faith Domergue as Gayle Dorain. As noted, there are some interesting scenes in and around the movie being shot, but for the most part you’re here to just watch the predictable play out in less than three acts. Once the undead are raised, it seems to take an awfully long time for them to shuffle around and play Mortal Coil Kombat with the cast and crew. But one thing to consider here is George A. Romero’s “RULES OF ZOMBIE ENGAGEMENT” had yet to be adopted to horror flicks. This accounts for the slower than usual feasters or plain old stinky, chuggy killers in a few films such as this one.
At least the creeps look suitably spooky, particularly in the dead rising scene, a few stalking shots and that corker of a coda that comes after all is said and done. It’s also worth noting that not all of the newly dead are done in by the moldy ones, but I’ll let you see that for yourself. As poor as this film is, it’s got a bit of a following among fans of zombie films and there’s actually a way to enjoy this a lot more that ties into that fact. Some of you know where this is headed, but I’ll spare the rest the suspense: go track down a copy of Bob Clark’s 1972 fright flick Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things and make it a double feature night at the movies. Watch THoSC first, then go back in time to see what a lower budget and a more “into-it-live” cast does with pretty much the same material. Granted, Children is a corn-fest and snoozer for its first two thirds. But the long wind-up has a payoff that works just fine, thank you.
I guess if you’d like to quit drinking, you can always make watching The House of the Seven Corpses into a drinking game where you take a shot every time you actually get scared. Trust me, that uncracked bottle of booze will stay that way, but you may end up putting on a pot of coffee instead. Hey, I didn’t say that game was perfect, did I? Hmmm. Maybe add a rom-com to this if you can’t track that other film down, I say. Some of those are actually REALLY scary in their own ways, ha and ha…