By JAMES TUCKER
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt
Directed by Peter Duffell
Written by Robert Bloch
Produced by Amicus Productions
What can I say that hasn’t been said about THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD?
The all-star packed Amicus anthology film is not exactly a forgotten classic, although it has been lurking at the bottom of Shudder’s discovery queue almost since the streaming service’s inception. It has no doubt been a source of constant pleasure for those who were aware of its presence on the platform; but for the rest, it has been lying there waiting, waiting while more recent anthology films (like Shudder’s The Mortuary Collection, which I have heard is also excellent) have been getting much of the public’s attention and acclaim this Halloween season. I decided it was time to dig THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD back up, and I have rarely ever been so pleased, as this is one of the most solid and consistently enjoyable anthology films I have ever seen.
“Bloch’s anthology fuses camp with horror that stems from the human heart, making this film a real treat for this Halloween season.”
The title is a bit misleading, as THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD doesn’t feature any of the traditional trappings of haunting films; no, Bloch’s anthology instead deals with literalizing and externalizing the flaws of its all too human main characters, using the house as a backdrop instead of the main source of its horror. There are certainly elements of the paranormal here, don’t get me wrong (voodoo dolls, haunted mannequins, and vampires all make appearances), but at the center of each story are real characters with real flaws, with realistic performances that sell both the horror and camp in equal measure. It is an anthology film done perfectly, a series of bizarre and unique stories that only Robert Bloch could have written unified under one roof, a roof that takes the worst of human nature and twists it into new and darker shapes. Moreover, it does so while balancing its horror with a fair bit of camp and humor. As a result, there’s a very real charm to THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, a charm that supplements the film’s solid thematic core, compelling characters, and multiplicity of monsters to make the Amicus anthology more than worthy of its stellar reputation.
Let me give you a quick tour.
The first story is about a writer who becomes haunted by visions of Dominic, the strangler he created for his newest horror novel, and we watch as he questions his sanity while Dominic turns his murderous attentions towards the people in his life. The psychological bent to this tale is what keeps it compelling as we wonder ourselves if Dominic is real, if our main character has (essentially) become possessed by his own imagination; the ending is appropriately EC-comic-esque, but with a further twist that will surprise and please fans of series like Tales from the Crypt. The second story follows a retired stockbroker who runs across a waxwork dummy that looks an awful lot like a forgotten lover, and both him and his friend are continually drawn to the waxwork museum despite their better judgment… and to their bitter ends. It’s a cautionary tale about letting go of the past, but it also shares Bloch’s fascination with themes of obsession and “dangerous love.”
The third story follows a young woman who is hired to teach and take care of a widower’s daughter, only to find that the little girl isn’t exactly what she seems. It retains the ability to unnerve it had when the film was released, as we aren’t exactly sure what we’re dealing with when this little girl shows up onscreen. When we are, well… Christopher Lee probably deserved it. And the fourth follows a horror film actor who purchases a cloak from a mysterious costume shop, looking for something “authentically horrifying” to wear in his next role. He, of course, gets much more than he bargained for as well. This segment is no doubt the campiest, but brings a much needed bit of levity to the film and ties in well with the film’s frame narrative.
There is not a segment of this film that I did not enjoy. Every single one of them drew me in immediately, and the film kept my attention as it slowly unraveled each story in front of me, daring me to guess the unifying theme between these very different accounts. In the revelation of such, it did not disappoint me. In fact, I daresay by the film’s end I was convinced I had seen one of the most consistently entertaining anthology films I had ever seen. What else could I do but write about it, and dare you to step inside?
THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD will prove to be a more than suitable Halloween treat, and I hope Shudder keeps it on the platform for a long, long while. 10 out of 10. Go check it out.