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Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) or livewithfilm is pursued by a ravenous rhododendron…

31 May


A much maligned sub genre, the portmanteau horror is close to livewithfilm’s heart. A contained series of tales that are linked through some nefarious means, these episodic wonders offer a clutch of (occasionally) chilling short stories with final punch-to-the-gut twists. Often offering a host of bizarre stars in increasingly odd situations (Tom Baker’s presence in The Vault of Horror (1973) is notable for all the wrong reasons), portmanteau films remain wildly inventive. Without the need to sustain a plot for a full film’s length, segments often steer into amusing lunacy before stumbling across a dénouement.

Five strangers enter a train carriage and intrigued by the tarot cards of Dr. Terror (Peter Cushing), begin to discover the horrible fates that await them: Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum) travels to his ancestral home, only to release a werewolf from a concealed crypt; Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman) discovers that a carnivorous plant has sprouted in his front lawn; Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) gets into a mess when he replicates a voodoo chant with his jazz band; Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee) is hounded by the severed hand of a vengeful artist; and Dr Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) questions the blood sucking potential of his new bride to be.

Yes, as you have probably guessed from the plot synopses above, livewithfilm enjoyed some rather wacky viewing. Dr Terror’s House of Horrors is undeniably worth a watch, if only to witness how far each story plummets down the rabbit hole. Often seeming unsure if it wishes to be screamed with or laughed at, there are notable peaks and lulls. The man eating plant remains exceptionally unthreatening and livewithfilm struggles to think of an image that inspired less dread than this peckish pansy. Lingering elsewhere on the horror spectrum, Christopher Lee’s approaching appendages and Donald Sutherland’s penchant for heart-staking remain the film’s high points. Dr Terror’s House of Horrors is absolutely teeming with ideas, even if not all of them are pulled off. If you haven’t seen the final twist coming, then under livewithfilm rules you must copy: ‘I must watch more horror films’ one hundred times.

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