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TV Tuesday: Hammer House of Horror (The House That Bled to Death)




The House That Bled to Death is an old-fashioned haunted house story. Notice I didn’t say “good” old-fashioned haunted house story. Most of it is long and slow; however, it concludes abruptly, as if part of the third act is missing. The best thing about it is the very ending, a stinger that makes more sense and is more satisfying than most in the series have been so far.

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Prior to the opening credits, we see an old man (George Tovey) prepare a cup of tea for his wife (Una Brandon-Jones) by adding some white powder to it. We instantly know he’s going to poison her, but the way he ignores her when she grabs her throat, gasping for air, is unexpectedly chilling. He then grabs an antique sword from the wall. We don’t see what he does with it, but a newspaper headline will later explain.

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When William (Nicholas Ball) and Emma (Rachel Davies) Peters stop their car in front of the house and real estate agent A.J. Powers (Milton Johns) takes them inside, we instantly know we’re going to have an Amityville Horror situation on our hands. The fact that they leave their daughter, Sophia (Emma Ridley) in the car will ultimately speak to the character of her parents and their subsequent actions.

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Surprise! Strange things start happening in the house… bloody things that accurately represent the title of the episode. For a while, it seems they may be tied more closely to the neighbors across the street, George (Brian Croucher) and Jean (Patricia Maynard), which would have been an interesting twist. The strange things happen only when they visit.

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Instead, that plot point is just a clue to another game that’s being played, perhaps supernatural, but perhaps not. Like the other clues, we don’t realize there’s a larger mystery until we’re told there’s one in the abrupt conclusion. Before then, there’s no hint that we may not exactly be in Amityville anymore, which means it’s not as much fun as it could have been. It’s more forced than organic.

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Reflecting on the episode as a whole, I like it a bit more now. The middle moves so slowly, though. That’s what I recall about the series in general, and it’s what I mentioned in my review of the first episode, Witching Time. I don’t believe Hammer House of Horror ever came close to being great; however, it could have been so much better with a little more editorial discretion.

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Hammer Horror Film Connections:

  • James Bernard composed the music

  • Norman Warwick was Director of Photography for Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde

Season 1

Episode 5

Written by David Lloyd

Directed by Tom Clegg

Starring Nicholas Ball, Rachel Davies, Brian Croucher, Patricia Maynard, Milton Johns, Emma Ridley, Joanne White Aired October 11, 1980 (UK) RT 52 min.

Home Video Synapse (Blu-ray)

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