Updated: Sep 26, 2021
After producing its own take on familiar horror creatures and situations, Hammer House of Horror really thinks outside the box with episode 12, The Two Faces of Evil. It's so unique, I'm not sure exactly what supernatural events it depicts. If anything, the story reminds me a little bit of Jordan Peele's Us (2019), which left me as perplexed as this did.
Here, a family of three drives along a country road. You know they're about to be punished in some way because they're behaving and singing altogether too happily. Swerving to miss a man in a yellow raincoat that the mom, Janet (Anna Calder-Marshall), saw earlier standing in a field, they stop to give him a ride. He soon grabs the dad's, Martin (Gary Raymond), neck causing him to wreck the car. It's a great pre-credits opening.
Janet wakes up in the hospital. Martin has been in surgery to remove glass from his throat. Their son, David (Paul Hawkins), is running around in the hall, perfectly unharmed. With Janet in subsequent panic all the time, and David obliviously happy, The Two Faces of Evil, has a dreamlike quality. It plays like a bad dream and I kept thinking Janet would sit bolt upright in bed to realize none of the terror was real.
It is, though, and it escalates as the story continues. It involves identifying the body of the hitchhiker, bringing Martin home, and strange glances from hospital staff. At one point, I literally wrote in my notes, "I don't know what the hell is happening, but it is scary and suspenseful." This might be the best episode yet for simply creating a creepy mood and atmosphere, logic be damned.
When the concept is so unusual, I think it would be better to not attempt to explain it. Unfortunately, The Two Faces of Evil tries. I believe it's Dr. Cumming (Jeremy Longhurst) who puts a supernatural idea in Janet's head without her prompting it, then turns right around to say that such things exist only in fiction. I understand why the story includes this, but it might be more satisfying to leave a cause to the imagination than to confuse the issue even more.
Production-wise, the episode is strong. The music by Paul Patterson is particularly effective. I wonder why he has only four British television credits. (Likewise, writer Ranald Graham has only 10.) Alan Gibson again directs, proving he's been in charge of some of the strongest episodes of the series. Others have contained confusing parts or conclusions, but it really works for the entire thing to be an enigma. The Two Faces of Evil ranks among my favorites
Hammer Horror Film Connections:
Alan Gibson directed Crescendo (1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973).
Jeremy Longhurst played Bruno Heitz in The Gorgon (1964)
Ron Gregory was uncredited as in The Plague of the Zombies (1966)