Trollin’ on Netflix: “The Legend of Hell House”

by Michael Hunley. 0 Comments

For my second entry of the highly acclaimed (read: my mom thought it was funny) new series “Trollin’ on Netflix,” where I share all the awful horror movies I’ve watched on Netflix Instant, I take a look at the 1973 classic starring everyone’s favorite chimpanzee archaeologist

“THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE”

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Welcome to Hell House. Come for the paranormal activity, stay for its exemplary school district.

I had such high hopes for this movie. How could I NOT love a movie that starred Roddy McDowall (who was in “Overboard,” and only good things can come from someone associated with “Overboard”); was directed by the guy who made “The Watcher in the Woods,” one of the most bizarre live-action Disney films I’ve ever seen; and it has the word “Hell” in the title.

But, oooohhhh, it suuuuucked. As much as I love terrible horror movies, this one failed because it took itself way too seriously — instead of having some scary fun, as a film with “Hell House” in the title should, it just turns dull and repetitive. It does get props, however, for a beautiful scene where a character is attacked by a possessed cat:

(Yes, I stayed until the very end of the film to see if there was a credit for “Cat Puppet Thrower.”)

“Legend” tells the timeless tale of a millionaire paying a physicist and his wife, along with two psychics, to spend a few days in the titular Heck House in order to prove whether or not ghosts exist. Naturally, they run into ghosts pretty early on. But instead of wacky paranormal shenanigans like the whole “Hey, the ghosts stole our daughter!” thing in “Poltergeist,” we instead get a bunch of  British actors having scientific discussions about how to tap into the electromagnetic energy left over from the house’s ghostly inhabitants, and YAWN!

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(Plus, there’s some really awkward scene dissolves.)

There is nothing particularly scary about watching people talk about a malevolent spirit, especially when you rarely get to see said ghost. Aside from a few scenes with one of the mediums, played by Pamela Franklin, interacting with an invisible entity (and even having a sexual encounter with it; please don’t ask me to explain that scene, because I really don’t want to) or its surprise ending, where the ghost’s true identity is revealed (SPOILER ALERT: It’s lame), there’s really not a lot of moments spent with whatever is haunting Hell House. We do get a seance scene, though, and ectoplasm comes out of someone’s fingers:

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Which is kinda cool, I guess. Not in a possessed-Roddy McDowall-spinning-his-head-360-degrees-while-vomiting-green-pea-soup way, though. More in an “At least something supernaturally spooky is happening” way.

I can’t say “Legend” was a complete waste of time, though, since there is the aforementioned possessed-cat-attack scene, which is a textbook example of what happens when filmmakers in the ’70s had a small budget, no CGI and an unlimited supply of cat puppets:

You know a film is in trouble when its cat puppet makes Salem from “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” look like something created by Industrial Light & Magic.

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