House of the Living dead

Director: Ray Austin

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

A laboratory with bubbling beekers & a collection of birds & pets in an Old Dark House reassure us that House of the Living Dead (1973) is intent on being unoriginal.

House of the Living deadA limping man in a lab coat & hospital mask straps down an unconscious baboon, then drills its head with a wood-drill, the props being ultra-cheapo from the director's garage or kitchen.

This fellow turns out to be Breckinridge Brattling, "the loony in the attic," kept there by his brother, Sir Michael, who doesn't realize Breck can get out whenever he pleases.

Set in called "Cape Colony" in South Africa, perhaps in the 19th Century, there's a heck of a lot of "the natives are restless" & jungle drums crap. A blind voodoo priestess with glowy white eyes tells the plantation lord vengefully, "Evil must be fought with evil!"

The blind priestess is just a moment of local color & will contribute absolutely nothing else to the plot, good or evil. But a beautiful young native makes & protects a voodoo doll of the lord, she says, to protect, not harm him.

Sir Michael is extracting souls of animals & people & keeping them in jars, which is staged for maximum silliness though it's doubtful the director knew his set designer hated him.

Pretty Miss Mary, Michael Bratley's bride to be, arrives at the gothic mansion, & has the decidedly unpleasant treat of meeting, for the first time, Michael's bitchy mother.

When the killings begin, they're blamed on crazy Breckinridge, though we may be forgiven for having our doubts. Somewhere lost in the background of this incompetent story is the idea of soul-exchange & the fact that crazy Breck & Sir Michael look alike.

House of the Living Dead is an incompetent mess with divergent ingredients adding up to squat. Despite the plethora of gothic trappings & tricks, it comes off as a particularly bad episode of the old Night Gallery series complete with bad paintings.

When the crummy painting of a horse whinnies, it's good for a passing chuckle, but not a chill. Furthering the Night Gallery tone is the family portrait of Marianne the insane girl; weird organ music by night; the ghost horse that means very little; the creepy mother who ends up less a creep than everyone else; & a "twist" ending I shan't give away except to say it wasn't worth the wait.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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