Pure Terror: The House That Screamed

September 10, 2015 at 9:00 pm Leave a comment

The House That Screamed was heavy on theme and light on story. Heavy on style with a modest amount of substance. In fact, I would have a hard time telling you who exactly was the main character. With all of that in mind, The House That Screamed was well made and acted. While it is always difficult to judge the acting in a dubbed movie, they did a really good job with non-verbal cues to let you know what the character was thinking and the cinematography helped build the tension. The movie, at times, is shocking and intense. Although it does walk to the line into becoming exploitation.

The House That Screamed is a slice of life showing an incredibly stifling girl’s reformatory set during some point in the past. Victorian era, I assume. The Head Mistress, played by Lilli Palmer, runs a tight ship, demanding conformity from everyone under her roof, including her own son. He is told to keep away from the girls because they are mostly delinquents and not good enough for him. Naturally, everyone bristles under her strict rules and begin finding ways to do things they aren’t suppose to be doing. From there, the movie goes girl gets in trouble, girl gets killed, rinse and repeat. The Head Mistress is very unconcerned with the whereabouts of the girls that keep going missing. There is a lot of torture and implied gore that is hit or miss depending on the scene. In the end, there is a not so shocking twist as to who was been killing the girls. The more shocking part is why this person has been killing the girls.

I don’t like to spoil too much so I will warn you now that the following might be a spoiler. With all of the whipping, tortured, and salacious implied lesbianism, the two most uncomfortable scene have nothing to do with the usual exploitative trash you would expect in a movie about a girl’s reformatory. In one scene, a younger girl is bullied by older girls and staff. Her mother is a cabaret act and the girl’s find out about it, taking the opportunity to bully her. They force her to wear a frilly top and sing songs. It sounds tame but the way the scene is filmed and performed really creates an uncomfortable tension. In another scene, the Head Mistresses Son crawls into an air vent in the boiler room to watch the girls in the shower. They all shower in their clothes, which is its own kind of uncomfortable. He gets locked into the air vent by a janitor and can’t get out. The boiler temperature increases and he fights for his life. The Head Mistress supervises the showers, so he dares not call for help. At this point of the movie we have been lead to believe she is killing people and he is terrified of her. The entrance of the air vent is very much blocked. They did an excellent job of showing the claustrophobia he was feeling in that moment and the hopelessness of his situation.

It is hard to fairly judge this movie, since the version I have was likely heavily edited, according to all accounts I have found on the internet. The version I did watch was slow and plotting but had it’s moments. All in all, it is a well made movie, bordering on a good movie. It’s not for everyone though. There is just enough sex and violence to turn away most people. I feel like film students would gain the most out of this movie just in terms of showing how tension and character development can be done through non-verbal communication. Not exploitive enough to be an exploitation movie. Not clean enough to be anything else. Unless you’re studying this movie for film making purposes or a fan of this kind of thing, take a pass.


Entry filed under: Horror.

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