Haunted House of Horror (The) AKA Horror House AKA The Dark (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Screenbound Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (28th September 2019).
The Film

A Tigon British classic restored to HD. Once, in a now-deserted mansion, a man went mad and sliced up his entire family. Now, a group of jaded boys and girls from Swinging Sixties London decide to go out to the house on a dare. Frankie Avalon and Dennis Price star. Michael Armstrong directs.

Video

A group of thrill-seeking twenty somethings segue from a hip party to a haunted house for shits and giggles . Unfortunately, the threat is much more corporeal as a psycho murders one of the party. As some members have criminal records they leave the body elsewhere and report victim missing. Needless to say, things get complex ... and gruesome.

Enjoyable spook opera of the kind usually made in the USA by the likes of William Castle; this has Frankie Avalon for added US appeal. Despite a troubled production it seemed pretty seamless to me. It's well mounted and creepy with the odd shock and gory moment.

It benefits from being made by a youngster (writer-director Michael Armstrong was 25) and cast with beautiful young things who give it an energy and flavour missing from most other British genre fare of the era; being set in the then present also helps set it apart from most. Old pros George Sewell (as a stalker) and Dennis Price (a copper) turn up to add some gravitas.

Screenbound entertainment bring Michael Armstrong's cult horror film to the market in a worldwide Blu-ray premiere. It seems to be strictly limited with the asking price being rather high from all sellers as of writing with no signs since it's release of coming down. Perhaps much smaller batches of this have been done; it is a fairly minor effort and unlikely to sell as well as the likes Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General (1968) or Blood on Satan's Claw (1970); both from the Tigon stable and released by Screenbound Entertainment on BD.

The picture quality is generally excellent with plenty of fine detail, shadow detail and no crush; blacks are very deep and rich. There has been talk on the web that the file size is smaller than it ought to be but I honestly couldn't see any obvious signs of this causing problems. No doubt had it been doubled with a higher bitrate then everything would be a notch even better. The colour palette is typical for low budget UK horror of the period with strong primaries, decent flesh tones and an overall slick, naturalistic look.

Contrast is supportive with no blowouts. It's a well shot film with a nice professional sheen; grain is present but mainly in dark, low lit scenes. The encode is very good; I saw no digital artefacts or print damage.

No complaints here regarding the picture.

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: None8

Complaints about the sound being tinny, scratchy etc ... I heard none of this. I pumped the 2.0 mono sound through all four speakers and cranked up the volume in order to accentuate any issues should they be present and heard nothing of note. Obviously, I also checked the track out in the correct configuration 2.0 through my 5.1 amp.

It's a solid lossless track of a limited, dated source. There's no low end and LFE boost which would probably account for the tinniness some seem to have heard. There's the odd edge in some sibilants and occasionally a musical crescendo distorts slightly but I suspect this has always been an issue. It's a mono track for a troubled, low budget, independent production from 1969 and to my ears it sounds fine given those production details.

The more egregious problem is the complete lack of subtitles which is unforgivable. I hope no one who is hearing impaired ever wants to watch this film.

Extras

Audio commentary with director Michael Armstrong and author John Hamilton

The same track that first appeared on Anchor Bay UK's 2005 copy of the film that appeared in The Tigon Coffin box set. A very agreeable listen. Armstrong is chatty and packs the track with tons of great information about the troubled production, shooting in arduous conditions, thoughts of the casting etc. He's obviously still smarting at his poor treatment at the hands of AIP UK's Deke Heyward and second unti director Gerry Levy who did much reshooting.

"The Making of the Haunted House of Horror" 2019 documentary (91:18)

Newly produced feature-length documentary retrospective is overall very informative but suffers from perfunctory handling and production values. It could've done with a bit more production sheen but remains a very entertaining view; we're unlikely to get many more extras for this largely forgotten, marginal title.

A numbered card slipcase
A 16-page liner notes booklet "The Haunted House of Horror: Voyage Through the Dark" by Michael Armstrong
Two miniature reproductions of lobby cards
Fold out poster featuring key art


Some nice in the case extras here with two slick, colourful lobby card reproductions, an excellent liner notes booklet from screenwriter-director Armstrong who is always worth a listen ... or read. And, a fold-out poster and a numbered card slipcase (mine was #0171).

The usual non-essential,tat which is nice to have but not essential with the exception of the booklet.

Packaging

Standard, clear BD case with a hard card slipcase.

Overall

Screenbound Entertainment have done a bang-up job presenting the new 4K restoration of Writer-director Michael Armstrong's cult horror film. Picture is excellent and the sound good considering the source. The superb commentary has been ported across from the old Anchor Bay Tigon coffin set and the new extras are champion with a new documentary and some nice in-the-box tat, of which the booklet with an essay by Armstrong takes pride of place.

Highly recomended.

The Film: B- Video: A+ Audio: B+ Extras: A Overall: A

 


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