Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Complete Hammer House of Horror (2012, Synapse Films)

A nice treat just released by Synapse Films is a 5 disc set of the Complete Hammer House of Horror series from 1980. I am a big fan of Hammer horror films and have always wanted to check out this series. Previously released by A&E Video way back in 2001, we finally get the series back, this time with introductions to each episode and interview featurettes with select cast members (including Dark Shadows' Kathryn Leigh Scott).

The Complete Hammer House of Horror is comprised of all 13 episodes of the series. The first episode, Witching Time stars Jon Finch (from Hitchcock's Frenzy) as a man who is haunted by a 400 year old witch. He calls upon Ian McCulloch (Lucio Fulci's Zombie), his friend and doctor to help out. Next is The Thirteenth Reunion which tells the story of a journalist going undercover to a controversial weight loss clinic only to get mixed up in a series of deaths. The third episode stars Denholm Elliott as a realtor who is stuck in a loveless marriage and wants to run away with his secretary. His life becomes a series of dreams and he can't tell when he is awake or sleeping. Next is Growing Pains about a scientist and his wife who adopt a boy after his son dies. They soon find the boy to be acting very strange and a series of "accidents" begin to occur. The fifth episode is The House that Bled to Death which focuses on a house that may be haunted by a woman who was murdered there. Next is Charlie Boy concerning a voodoo doll and a couple who are trying to save themselves from their inevitable death. The seventh episode (and my favorite) stars Brian Cox as an ex-con who gets a job for (and tries to steal from) an old pet shop owner (Peter Cushing) who owns many exotic (and dangerous) pets. Diana Dors stars in the next episode, Children of the Full Moon which concerns a couple stranded at a secluded mansion filled with children who turn out to be deadly. The ninth episode, Carpathian Eagle, features a bunch of murders where men's hears are ripped out. Next is Guardian of the Abyss, which concerns an antique dealer who happens upon a mirror that is also a doorway to hell. Visitor from the Grave, stars Kathryn Leigh Scott as a mentally disturbed woman who kills a man who tries to rape her only to have visions of him returning from the grave. Her criminal boyfriend (Simon MacCorkindale) tries to help her overcome her visions with the help of an exorcist. Next is The Two Faces of Evil which features a couple picking up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a killer and causes them all to crash. The couple then try to discover the identity of the killer and his motives. The Mark of Satan, the final episode, features a man who thinks he is possessed by the devil after seeing the number 9 everywhere he goes.

The Complete Hammer House of Horror is a wonderful companion to the classic Hammer films. Despite being made for television, we are still treated with plenty of the gore, nudity and scares that are prevalent in the Hammer films. The picture quality of these 30+ year old films is very crisp and well preserved. The stories are well written and the cast features a nice mix of unknown and classic actors, some of which were unknown at the time (Pierce Brosnan). The intros from film historian Shane M. Dullman and the interviews with Kathryn Leigh Scott and Mia Nadasi are very insightful and a welcome addition to the mostly bare bones A&E set. Overall, if you love Hammer or classic, well-written horror movies, this set is a must have. I love anthology horror movies and this is basically one 12 hour anthology.

RATING: 9/10

You can order this directly from Synapse Films HERE

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