Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD (1978)

Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD (1978)

When it was decided by a roll of the click of the mouse on a random number generator that this week's Chilling Classic would be the anthology film The House of the Dead, I had a big, profound thought. That big, profound thought was "Oh yeah, I mostly remember that one." For you see, I reviewed it from the hallowed halls of Final Girl Manor all the way back in 2007. 2007! Doris, were we ever so young?

Then I continued to think. "I bet readers will get tired of reading about how much my sensibilities as a viewer have changed since those naughty aughties, how I like things I didn't used to like and vicey versy. Self, I will wager with you right now that I did not enjoy this movie when I originally reviewed it but I surely will enjoy it now! After all, back then I was not a girl, but not yet a woman. My glass used to be filled with MD 20/20 Strawberry Kiwi and a splash of Celestial Seasonings Berry Zinger but now, now she only holds the Zinger. I am no longer a girl gone wild. Rather, I am a dowager gone mild."

Or something like that. But I held off on reading my old-ass thoughts about The House of the Dead until I finished watching it for this reassessment. I had not seen it in the interim. How did it hold up after all that time? 

Well, I can't say I enjoyed it more than I did in 2007. It surprised me, though, to find that I was mostly into its weirdness back then. Because it sure is weird! I mean, this film also goes by the title Alien Zone, and it hails from Oklahoma. Weird should be expected. 

So what I'm gonna do, see, is sometimes post a few of my ~*~vintage~*~ thoughts and see how those thoughts stack up today. Think of it like it's one of those "You won't believe what they look like now" slide shows you see advertised from Tabooly or whatever that spam site is, and one time you think "hmm, I would like to know what Small Wonder looks like now" so against your better judgment you clicked the link and you get completely trapped in that slide show, you click and click and click and you're like "What the fuck, I'm on slide 83, where is old Small Wonder?" and you want to stop but the sunk cost fallacy kicks in and you click more and more until you finally give up around slide 123. "All that time wasted! Another step closer to carpal tunnel!" you think. "And I never even got to see old Small Wonder!" 

Okay, maybe that's just me. Anyway!


I can say with enthusiasm that I was into this segment, wherein a misanthropic schoolteacher goes home, gets scared, and is attacked by children who are not actually children I guess? It's simple and stupid as hell and it makes no sense (that's the running theme of The House of the Dead, really) but it was the right kind of dumb. And hey, if you watch the Vinegar Syndrome blu-ray--because of course it exists--or the Tubi version the kids' masks pop way more than they do in the Mill Creek version (shocking) and they look great.

I need to post this look again because it's obviously my favorite:


What I wrote then:

A weird man who loves photography sets up a motion picture camera in his living room and films himself killing blind dates. The mortician tells us he was caught and executed a year or so later.


And don't go thinking this was some sort of interesting Peeping Tom-style story, either, because it was positively dreadful. DREADFUL. We see everything through the camera the dude sets up, which means one stationary shot for the entire segment. It made me feel like I was back in acting class, sitting through everyone's boring-ass scene studies. Let me tell you...that's not a feeling I enjoy.

Well, I agree it was pretty dull and the non-ending ending was awful. But! This time the stationary camera idea made me go "ooh, proto-found footage!" so that's something.


Ye olde thoughtes about this story, wherein "Britain's Number One Sleuth" goes head-to-head in crime-solving against "America's Greatest Detective":

There's really no way to describe this segment beyond calling it just plain stupid. Did I like it? Well, yes, I did- it had me laughing my head off. It totally reminded me of something I would have written in 7th grade for a mystery-writing assignment. 2 "great" detectives, the worst police procedurals ever, magnifying glasses, 3 twist endings, and Rolling Stone magazine. I would have called it World's Greatest Murder, and my "author's bio" would have consisted exclusively of "STACIE PONDER #1".

Totally agree, and I'm still super into Britain's Number One Sleuth, who looks exactly how I feel inside:


Ah yes, an a-hole office worker has nothing but disdainful thoughts about his co-workers, panhandlers, store clerks, and probably you and me. Well, you at least. *nail polish emoji* He gets trapped in an empty building in kind of a Saw-like scenario, for some reason, and by the end of the segment he's a full-on wino, which may lead one to conclude that the building--though the reasons why are still unknown--was actually a wino factory.

The big draw of this story is when the a-hole's co-worker suggests lunch at a new hamburger place that features 23 different kinds of hamburgers. I am just as fascinated by and as pragmatic about this idea as I was in 2007:

I don't know why, but I was really into the idea of 23 different hamburgers. I mean, it sounds incredible, right? Hardly believable, even. In reality, though, we all know that "23 different hamburgers" simply means 23 different combinations of hamburger toppings...then it doesn't seem so incredible.

My overall feelings have maybe ebbed a little, but they still hew pretty close to the first time:

House of the Dead didn't disappoint. I mean, it did, because it sucked, and yet there I was, enjoying it and all its inexplicablies. Maybe when the suckage is restricted to 15-minute segments I become more forgiving. 

Actually, no, scratch that. One new development on this second viewing is that I realized that The House of the Dead was actually directed by (gasp) a woman! Sharron Miller! Who also directed several episodes of a short-lived early-aughties sitcom starring Danielle Harris (!), Debi Mazar (!!), Ellen Burstyn (!!!), and Heather Dubrow of The Real Housewives of Orange County (!!!!!!!!). So yeah, I guess you could say my feelings about The House of the Dead have changed since 2007. It's obviously perfect