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Askew Review 15

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(Sub Rosa) Horror. 1999/2003. 90/82 min. Both DVDs are Rated 17 by the IDRB. 
     I never would have thought before that even the opening credits to a film could be hokey, but I now know otherwise.  The special effects pretty much simply consist of lots of deviation between regular film and polarized film, annoying heavy breathing background noise, and then later in the film, shots of the house where the camera man zooms in then out, then in then out, and in and out some more.   
     In The House that Screamed, Bob Dennis plays Marty Beck, a writer who lost his wife and son in a fire.  Beck drives to another town to rent a ‘haunted house’ and live in it while writing his new horror novel (believing that the house would generate publicity for the book).  Beck, a disbeliever of the supernatural, soon realizes that the house is indeed haunted as he begins to experience the spookiness of the house…Things like sheets draped over chairs standing up on their own, the doorbell being rung by apparently no one, and a scantily clad woman rolling around, and borderline masturbating, in Beck’s dreams. 
     Line after line of corny dialogue accentuates each of the actor’s horrible dramatic skills that any high school acting class could easily surpass.  There are pretty big boo-boos in the plot as well, like Beck telling the real estate agent that he’d like to rent the house for several weeks, but then on “DAY TWO” already calling his publishing company to ask for more money in order to stay there longer. 
     As Beck’s novel is coming along, he also begins to investigate the hauntings in the house.  He speaks with a man who spent one night in the very house after his car broke down, only to get creeped out by this guy – who, by the way, tore out his own eyeballs because of the things he saw while in the house.  Beck then learns from a ‘friendly’ Civil War soldier ghost in the house that there are many spirits there, evil beings trapped in the house, who, of course, would like to do harm to the living. 
     Best line of the film - spoken by the Civil War ghost to Beck:  “You must enter the belly of the beast if you wish to understand the house that screams.”  So, following that advice, Beck smashes a whole in the wall, climbs in, finds a coffin with himself in it in the basement, and learns that he himself has to commit suicide within the house in order to free the existing spirits.  Ok then.  So you can tell where this is going: Beck is driven mad by the ghosts, rips his own eyeballs out – which apparently kills him – and all the evil spirits are released. 
     In Hellgate: The House that Screamed 2, after Beck’s novel mysteriously shows up at the publisher and becomes a best seller, a college professor and two of his students embark on the house, this time to study the paranormal activity.   
The acting ability of the professor and student characters is better, but everyone else in the movie is still horrible.  Bob Dennis returns as the now-evil-ghost Marty Beck, and has glowing red sockets where his eyes used to be.  The dialogue is forced and awkward, and the special effects are just as bad as in the prequel.  Oh, and there’s another barely dressed ghostly apparition in part two as well, only this one is much more well-endowed, who also undulates around a lot and rubs blood on her mouth and bosom while asking the professor for help.
     Beck’s roll in the house has also changed a bit from the first House That Screamed.  Originally being the one needed to release the spirits trapped in the house, now he is a guardian to one of the gates of hell – which, conveniently, is in that very house.  “The house is a doorway to hell. Every door a gateway, every room a mouth,” Marty growls. 
     Other amusing lines in the film are: “The spirits are preventing us from getting in!”  Shouts the professor after the ghosts have locked him and one of his students out of the house.  I would have loved if the student looked at him and replied, 'Well, duh!' 
     “I was staring into hell itself!”  Also uttered by the professor, to the glowing eye-socket-ed Beck after opening the lid to a coffin and staring into a screaming vortex.
     As you can imagine both students end up dead in the house.  But then there are also other interesting surprises, like seeing cob-webbed faced monk-like figures roaming around, and then finding out that the professor had already died in a car accident some time before coming to the house.  Beck has to convince him to accept his death and walk into the coffin (Hell).  It’s never established who the busty ghost is if in the first movie, Beck’s suicide had released all of the trapped souls, or what the deal was with the students.  Were they already dead as well?  And then too, the few minutes from when the professor enters the coffin until the end of the movie are just as unexplainably weird and senseless. 
     For b-movie lovers, The House That Screamed and Hellgate: The House That Screamed 2 aren’t any worse than most of the rest of that genre.  But for mainstream horror fans, these movies should be rented if you are craving more chuckles than scares.  Either way, if you plan on renting one, rent them both.  You might think after the first one that it can’t get much worse than that, but in part 2…it does. - Melanie Falina



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