The House of Seven Corpses (1974)


As far as murder mystery movies about evil houses, “The House of Seven Corpses” is not a masterpiece. I’m by no means intent on watching it again for at least a few years, but it makes a good argument for nonsensical genre fodder that doesn’t even try. The main character’s cat gets in to a stare down with a painting on a wall featuring the head of a severed cat. There’s the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” that’s bandied about like it’s an encyclopedia, and did I mention a zombie pops up in the end? Why? Who the hell knows? The zombie just gets out of its grave, kills the entire cast, carries a naked girl to his grave, and the movie ends.

“The House of Seven Corpses” doesn’t seem to have a single idea of what it’s trying to be, thus is throws in a bunch of plot elements, and red herrings to lull the audience in to thinking it’s building in to something huge. Maybe we’ll get an insight in to the cursed history of the house. We don’t. Maybe we’ll finally find out why the seven residents died mysteriously. We don’t. Will I see it again to make sense of it? I won’t. And you can’t make me. A British film crew are making the story of the dreaded House where seven mysterious murders took place. Filled with a twisted history, turmoil among the cast begins when the control freak director begins antagonizing his performers, and insisting on perfection that they’re having problems achieving.

Meanwhile, there’s an enigmatic caretaker named Vincent who watches them film every second, and insists on their accuracy toward the deaths, providing long bouts of exposition about the mysterious house and its alleged history with satanism and witchcraft. I’m still not sure why the caretaker takes it upon himself to explain the history of the murders, when the film opens with a montage of the seven house owners being murdered and dying in twisted ways. It’s almost as if the director knows the film is lacking in scares, so he has to emphasize how twisted the opening murders are. The movie is only about twenty minutes of horror, with an hour of meta-drama about making a movie, and being tasked with performing for a horrible dictatorial director.

Surely, the film garners mood and atmosphere, but that means nothing when the story slogs through at a snail’s pace, with almost zero scares or interesting tension. The writers seem to want to rush through to the end, so suddenly the Tibetan Book of the Dead pops up, and one of the characters begins reading it aloud. This causes a rumble in the cursed Earth, and the finale just shouts abrupt, rushed, and slapdash. Anyone expecting an excellent pay off for so much build-up will be painfully disappointed. How do you end a dull mystery? Oh, just toss in a zombie, and make sure you close the film as soon as possible.