For those who like their horror bite size and British, Hammer Films produced an anthology series in 1980 under the banner “Hammer House of Horror”.
The series, which lasted only one season, was broadcast on the ITV network in the UK. A total of 13 standalone episodes were produced and covered a gamut of horror themes ranging from witches and werewolves to demons and ghosts. As with most anthologies the quality of the episodes varied considerably. Each episode runs approximately 50 minutes.
The premiere episode, Witching Time, tells the story of a 17th century witch named Lucinda (played by Patricia Quinn) that returns to her ancestral home in the English countryside several hundred years after she was lynched by the townsfolk for…well being a witch. David (played by John Finch), a drunken composer and current occupant of the home, is not that keen on sharing his abode with a witch and runs afoul of her when he locks her in a room and contacts the authorities. Lucinda, already a bit jaded due to the whole lynching thing, is having none of that and tries to exact her revenge on David with her own version of being burned at the stake. Fortunately, David’s actress wife Mary (Prunella Gee) shows up to help her husband fend off the revenge driven witch.
Like most of the of the other episodes, there’s nothing truly exceptional about the the storyline as it plods its way to a predictable ending. Along the way, David teaches Lucinda mundane things about modern life such as how plumbing and electricity works which does little to build suspense as to what is coming next.
One of the more entertaining episodes of the anthology was “Children of the Full Moon”, which begins with the long-standing cliche of a young couple’s car breaking down on a lonely country road. Tom (Christopher Cazenova) and Sarah (Celia Gergory) seek shelter in a house they stumble upon that is being looked after by Mrs. Ardoy, a caretaker played by Diana Dors. The house also contains a seemingly countless number of creepy kids whose presence seems to provide some concern for the stranded couple.
Diana Dors, whose career in film and television spanned almost 40 years until she passed away a few years after this episode aired, has the standout role. Her character walks a thin line between welcoming and menacing until her ultimate plans for the young couple, particularly Sarah, are revealed. Unlike other episodes in this anthology, the ending (which I won’t reveal) was actually somewhat surprising and the characters, particularly Diana Dors who was once considered Britain’s Marilyn Monroe, kept me invested in the story.
In all honestly, the majority of the episodes in the series are mostly cliched horror stories with the flavour of sex and violence that Hammer became known for: a murderous voodoo doll in “Charlie Boy”, a sinister haunted house in “The House that Bled to Death”, a disturbed adopted boy in “Growing Pains”. Peter Cushing fans may also might enjoy “The Silent Scream” episode where the horror legend plays a pet shop owner with a dark past.
Hammer House of Horror is not extraordinary in any way, possibly explaining why it lasted only one season but it is worth watching for Hammer fans who enjoy the style, if not substance this brand has come to be known for.
The entire series can currently be streamed for free on Tubi if you’re interested in checking it out.
This is my first blog post ever (so be kind) and my contribution to The Second Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon. The other half of Maniacs and Monsters (we haven’t decided which one of us is the maniac yet) has also written a couple of articles for the blogathon here and here. Please check out some of the other contributors to the blogathon by clicking on the image below. Our thanks to Cinematic Catharsis and RealWeegieMidget Reviews for hosting what is a great idea and accepting the contributions of a blog that is only getting started.