The House That Screamed Part One (1969) Ibanez-Serrador

This little monster girl plans on writing a more in depth essay on this elegant and voyeuristic spanish thriller. It happens to be one of my all time favorite and timeless horror films. To me it’s a work of art.

The film begins with Therese being dropped off at a remote, finishing school for “problem” girls run by the severe Madame Fourneau (Lilli Palmer),  whose  impish son, Luis (John Moulder-Brown) is held captive himself by his mother’s doting maternal iron hand. (Moulder’s outre boyish expression is creepy in and of itself.) It’s like that theme of pure evil behind the mask of purity. He’s left to scour the perimeters of the school, voyeuristically observing and befriending certain girls, like a rat who scurries behind the walls.

Somehow, there are several disappearances assumed to be the case of the girls being runaways, but there is something more more sinister lurking at The Finishing School.

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The narrative is driven by the cinematography, the colors which paint the film’s atmosphere like a gothic masterpiece, colors which are also very emblematic of the works of Mario Bava and why his films had a lush surreal dream like quality to them as well.

The pacing, the score, the visual perspective that allows us to participate in the claustrophobic, repression of the school. The eroticism so very self contained. It’s this type of eroticism that is much more compelling for me than literal sexual exploitation and nudity.

Guallermo Del Toro and Lucky McVee use this same technique which is why their work is so much more powerfully fable like. “Fable horror” (my characterization) not Violent horror. The stunning and quiet sensuality bring you just to the edge but does not indulge you. The sexuality and the horror aspect is not overstated at all. Which makes this film a profoundly more intriguing study in horror.

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The extreme violence in most contemporary Horror films are like a trip to the slaughter house. There is no theme. But brutality with body violation as a means to the end. There is no substantive context with which the narrative springs from. Even Saw which has a quirky plot, is quite more about the artifices that the killer employs the contraptions and various creative ways to die rather than a driving narrative based on mythology or psychology. Which is an interesting theme in itself and why Saw works, but by doing too many sequels I feel that it bastardizes the novelty of it’s originality and somehow loses it’s character. At least for me it does.

With The House That Screamed, the fear and anguish mixed with the exquisitely restrained performances by the actors is more powerful than movies like Wolf Creek and Saw which merely brings us excruciatingly close to realism and violence in real life. I would tag these films with a V for violence films and leave the traditional horror genre to have it’s own authentic label.

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