Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Legend of Hell House, The

UK movie (1973). Academy/20th Century-Fox. Pr Albert Fennell, Norman T Herman. Exec pr James H Nicholson. Dir John Hough. Spfx Tom Howard, Roy Whybrow. Screenplay Richard Matheson. Based on Hell House (1971) by Matheson. Starring Pamela Franklin (Florence Tanner), Gayle Hunnicutt (Ann Barrett), Roddy McDowall (Ben Fischer), Clive Revill (Dr Lionel Barrett). 94 mins. Colour.

Physicist Lionel Barrett heads a team of three sent by a mysterious magnate to investigate the Belasco house, renowned for the Haunting it has experienced since the 1920s; his wife Ann accompanies. The evil Spirit occupying the Haunted Dwelling essentially plays a Godgame with the quartet, constantly deluding them as to its real nature. Tanner is eventually killed by Poltergeist activity, having been misled into consenting to Sex with a spirit she has misidentified. Barrett uses a Technofantasy device to exorcize the house (> Exorcism), but fails to penetrate the lead-shielded room behind the chapel, from which the vile energy continues to emanate. It is left to Fischer – sole sane survivor of a previous investigation – to overcome his terrors and expose the secret of the original Belasco, thus banishing the spirit.

Matheson's original Supernatural Fiction was a rather directionless mixture of Horror tropes. The movie tightens this up considerably, but still gives the feeling that an attempt has been to throw everything into the cocktail – including a would-be killer black Cat. Even so, the ride, while seeming to lack any clear destination, is a thoroughly enjoyable one; the pseudo-drama-documentary presentation assists in building up the thrills. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.