The House of Seven Corpses (1974)

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The House of Seven Corpses is about a film crew making a horror movie. Their chosen setting for the film is the Beale house, an old residence where seven Beale family members met with various gruesome (though not overly explicit) and untimely ends.

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It’s something you wouldn’t want your realtor to leave out of the history portion of your tour, is what I’m saying.

Were the deaths suicides? Murders? No one knows what happened for sure, but the history of the house and the family’s rumored occult leanings were intriguing enough for director Eric Hartman to base a movie around.

During filmmaking the crew fatefully stumble upon a tome sitting on a bookcase (of all places. Go figure.) After little debate, they decide to recite from it during production to give the movie a greater sense of authenticity. No one really thinks anything of this new addition, until the lead actress cat is found torn in half the next morning.

Things slowly go downhill from there.

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If I knew this thing was so powerful I might have actually read my copy.

The House of Seven Corpses is interesting, in that you’re initially not sure what the movie is going for. Is it supposed to be a mystery, slasher, or ghost story? As the story progresses, you get a better idea of where it’s going, but the beginning is a bit vague, despite it’s impressive opening filled with ghoulish sounds and occult imagery.

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And despite the film’s faults if there’s one thing it gets right, it’s imagery. Everything from the costumes, to the sets, to the exterior shots of the house that I’m certain could never contain the impressive interiors within…

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Deceptive little bastard.

…is appropriately moody.

There are also some nice contrasting lighting shots, but those are few and far between.

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There’s an “eye see you” joke in here somewhere. I can feel it.

Another interesting aspect of the movie is how self-aware it is. We’re not talking about the same self-aware level as Scream here, but the script does make some strides in trying to make the film come across as firmly grounded in our own world and universe. There are quips about how difficult actors are, filmmaking and even a Vincent Price reference. And while the references don’t make up the bulk of the movie, and a good portion of them aren’t really all that funny, they do help make the film feel more culturally relevant, at least by1970’s standards. There was a lot of potential here, and it’s sad that the possibilities went unfulfilled.

As for the characters, they all fall into your typical film clichés. There’s the over-the-hill, hotheaded director trying to squeak out one more gem, the aging leading actress, the drunken Shakespearian, ham-it up actor, and the young, mediocre starlet.

Several faces are recognizable, but for the most part performances are largely ridged. John Carradine does have a small part as the houses caretaker. He ends up being the most engaging character in the film, but even his part is largely relegated to lurking about.

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But the movie’s largest downside is it’s pacing. It is sadly quite a bit slow. I’ll admit, there were a couple of times when I checked the clock to see how much longer the poor thing was going to drudge on.

The reason for this is that the plot really is too thin to hold a feature-length production. It’s the sort of thing just deep enough to cover a 30-minute episode of Tales from the Crypt, maybe an hour if you were really pushing it. But at 90 minutes, the movie ends up slithering from one scene to the next, usually involving Hartman filming one dull movie scene after another. Most of the film’s action is located in it’s opening and it’s finale. With the exception of one or two scenes, the middle just drags. Even when they’re filming bloody death scenes in the movie they’re making, the mediocre execution of not only the actors acting, but also the direction of the scene while you’re watching the film (Does that make sense? This is a ‘film within a film’ movie so I’m trying to explain it as best I can.), comes off as nothing more than bland. Those scenes do little but boil down to the formula of: Shoot. Frame. Shoot. Frame. Was it good for you? It looked good to me. Wrap it up.

Once again, there is potential here and it just falls by the wayside.

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As do two crew members that nobody can name or care about.

In the end, The House of Seven Corpses stands out more to me as the movie it could have been, rather than the movie it is. It’s got some pretty good concepts buried there, but fails to use them to full effect. And even with its occult and supernatural edge The House of Seven Corpses isn’t all that engaging. It does try, but this really is a case of trying to do too much with too little. The beginning is appealing, as is the ending, though it ends up being a bit baffling. However, if you like supernatural horror movies and don’t mind the slow burn, than this is something you may like to check out.

The House of Seven Corpses is available on a variety of streaming services, including free on Tubi TV.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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