The House of Seven Corpses

The House of Seven CorpsesSynopsis: A film crew. An evil spirit. And seven dead bodies.

Seeking a truly inspiring site, a film crew shooting a horror movie has found the prime location: a real live haunted house! Several years ago seven people were murdered inside the house, their deaths all occult-related. Though warned not to meddle with the unknown, the crew unwittingly awakens the same evil spirit out for fresh blood. Now, the crew’s biggest problem isn’t running out of film… it’s running for their lives!


The House of Seven Corpses 4.0

eyelights: the setting.
eyesores: the illogical plot developments. the crappy performances. the trite dialogues.

“I regretfully bid you a fond adieu.”

‘The House of Seven Corpses’ is a 1974 low-budget horror film starring John Carradine. It takes place in and on the grounds of a Utah mansion, where a film crew is making a motion picture about the strange deaths of the fictional Beal family, long-time owners of this house. Naturally, all manners of spooky happenings befall the cast and crew of the picture.

If it’s anything, it’s essentially a modern Ed Wood picture, with Carradine as its Bela Lugosi: the script is uni-dimensional and the dialogues are full of clichés. But then, so are the characters, who aren’t distinctive whatsoever. The actors aren’t especially good, either: the dialogues are bad, but the delivery is sometimes even worse. Heck, even the camera work is shoddy, shaky, lacking precision.

It’s really really bad.

A perfect example of how Ed Woodian the picture gets is when Anne, the young starlet, looks out the window at night and sees Mr. Price (Carradine), the caretaker, in the cemetery – through a bunch of trees, at a completely different angle, and in a day-for-night shot. It’s like watching two different movies poorly cut together, just like in ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space‘.

The worst thing is that ‘The House of Seven Corpses’ is actually waaay better than the shitty one that the characters are making. Now THAT is outrageously bad! The staging is horrendous, as are the performances, and there is little to no continuity when they’re filming a scene from different angles. I kept wondering who could possibly watch it and think it was any good? At least do retakes!

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

Just because their movie is beyond bad isn’t to say that ‘The House of Seven Corpses’ iseasy going on its audience. It only is in comparison.

For example:

  • At the onset, the caretaker, Edgar Price (yes, one of the character asks, jokingly, if his first name is Vincent! Harhar…), goes through each one of the seven deaths in the Beal family with the filmmaker and cast. This is redundant since they were shown to us right in the opening sequence. Then he shows them around the whole house, as though they hadn’t seen it already in the many days they’d been there. This kind of heavy-handed exposition and staging is an insult to audiences, really, who don’t need everything fed to them like drooling imbeciles.
  • There’s a scene when Gayle’s cat scratches Christopher’s hand. It is so ineptly constructed, poorly staged, edited, and unrealistically acted too, that it’s not in any way shape or form convincing. In fact, if it’s anything, it’s so hilariously bad as to provoke laughter. You almost have to see it to believe it!
  • The characters all end up wandering about the mansion at night for stupid reasons (like losing the cat) and people just pop into the picture from right out of the frame, as though they were there all along but no one had seen them – kind of like Lurch in the classic ‘The Addams Family’ TV show. Do these people not have peripheral vision?
  • David finds the Tibetan Book of the Dead in the house, and decides to swap their prop book with it. Naturally, no one notices, not even the actress reading from it, so when they do readings they conjure up evil spirits around the mansion. Naturally.
  • I really had a good chuckle when Gayle, while running back and forth on the stairs to escape the monster, kept tripping, perhaps in her nightgown. To me, it seemed so real-looking that it made me wonder if they were outtakes, if the actress actually had tripped in those scenes. Either way, it was funny to watch.
  • At one point, David falls into the grave of David Beal (who by then was resurrected and whose undead corpse was wandering about the grounds) and then turns into an undead. Now, please enlighten me: Does this happen a lot, this falling into an open grave and becoming a zombie business? It’s certainly a first for me. Anyway, not only is he an instant undead, but he’s also now wearing different clothes. You know, undead clothes. Ha!
  • Towards the end, Anne is seen passing out from terror. Perhaps she just died of fright, because the next time we see her, she’s floating by in the water… dead. Um, what? Even if she had died of fright, how did she get in the water? How is she floating by like that?

Le sigh… this movie is an endless stream of nonsense.

And that was just for starters!

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

What do I like about ‘The House of Seven Horror’? Two things: I love the setting, the Utah Governor’s Mansion. It’s a classic haunted manor, all made of wood, with large staircases and landings. It’s gorgeous. And I really enjoy that it’s a movie within a movie, even if it’s a bad movie in a bad movie. This adds a dimension to the picture that others of its ilk don’t have.

But it’s an otherwise truly inept motion picture. ‘The House of Seven Corpses’ has very little going for it, and even I, who has seen my share of bad movies in my time, eventually ran out of apologies for it while watching; there’s really just no excuse for making such a bad film. Even with budget limitations, it could have been better written, its construction could at least be competent.

It’s neither.

Unsurprisingly, it would the first and last motion picture that director Paul Harrison would make. He never produced again, and only wrote a telefilm and an episode of Trapper John, M.D. many years later. On a personal level, it’s unfortunate; I’m sure he had greater aspirations for himself. But from my perspective, it’s no great loss. We could all do with fewer films like ‘The House of Seven Corpses’.

At least it’s good for a few laughs. Or jeers, really.

Acting: 4.0
Story: 5.0
Production: 4.0

Chills: 3.0
Gore: 3.0
Violence: 4.0

Date of viewing: September 30, 2014

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