Eighty some odd years ago, seven mysterious occult-related deaths took place in an old mansion in Utah. Naturally then the thing to do would be to go to that mansion and make a low budget film re-enacting the bloodbath, complete with real readings from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. You have a lead actress of a certain age (Faith Domergue in her final film), an ingenue, a crusty director with some kind of past relationship with the lead (John Ireland), and a pervy leading man. Also, the director’s assistant pulls triple duty as an actor in the film and the ingenue’s boyfriend. Oh, and there’s a creepy caretaker played by John Carradine who knows a little bit too much about the house’s gruesome history to be anything but a red herring. What could go wrong?
The House of Seven Corpses is part of the film-within-a-film subgenre. One would think that fictional directors would know better than to take actors to a haunted location and replay the scenes of grisly deaths, but then we wouldn’t have films like this low-key but enjoyable one, or the excellent 2005 Japanese film Reincarnation. I’m struggling to think of other films where this has happened, but I’m sure they’re out there. Can you think of any?
As for whether you should check out The House of Seven Corpses, now that you know not to make a film like this: you already know if you like b-grade 70s old dark house films. I can’t say that this one breaks any ground, so if that’s what you want, keep looking. It’s just that when I like something, I want to collect experiences of every possible variation on that thing. And I like old dark house films from the 70s, even when they are slow, and the soundtrack is made of TV library music cues, and the ending would be a foregone conclusion even if it was not all but printed on the back of the box.
There are many things you can allow your imagination to run to while you are watching a super slow film, without much of a plot to concentrate on! For example:
- At the beginning of the film, right after the excellent opening credits sequence that shows you how everyone is going to die, Domergue’s big spell casting scene is interrupted by Carradine. (To set this joke up, Carradine’s character is named Eddie Price.) She quips, “So that’s Mr. Price, huh? What’s his first name, Vincent?” Very meta. What this makes me think of is that in the universe occupied by this film, Vincent Price is a real person, but John Carradine isn’t!
- When I am watching a fictional film crew make a movie in a movie, I always wonder if the real crew is standing there silently judging them on their techniques.
- If you like cats, you’re not going to like what happens to the feline star. I’ve always thought there should be a database that warned viewers about pet deaths in film, but if there was, no one would ever watch horror films with pets in the cast.
- I believe the title and some of the themes of The House of Seven Corpses are taken from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of Seven Gables, which was also said to have an influence on the works of Lovecraft.
- I noticed when they were reading the Tibetan B.O.D. that there was a Belial mentioned, which must be the origin (from the book, not from this film) of the evil twin character in Basket Case.
- John Ireland’s character is named Eric Hartman, which of course sounds like the name of a certain odious cartoon child when you say it fast.
- And finally, this was actually filmed at the Utah Governor’s Mansion, a fact which I bet doesn’t get brought up a lot at political fundraisers. That would be the first thing I would mention, should I ever find myself at a fancy party at the Utah Governor’s Mansion.
My copy of The House of Seven Corpses was released on a label called United American Video Corporation. The same copy is uploaded to both Prime and Shudder, but YouTube has one from Television Corporation of America which according to IMDb is the actual production company. This is not a made-for-television film even if the music sounds like it came from one. I was hoping there would be a United American logo at the beginning of the film, because I read on closinglogos.com that it was a logo that freaked a lot of people out watching this as children. Unfortunately, there’s no UAVC logo, just a screen that reads, “A presentation of Motion Picture Holdings.” I can find no info on that company. Did you know there is a whole internet subculture built around being frightened of logos? It’s a subculture of the subculture of people who are into logos. I myself used to find the United Artists logo to be severely creepy. I still do, but I used to, too. It’s much creepier than The House of Seven Corpses, although perhaps not as thought provoking. Were you freaked out by any VHS logos back in the day?