Sunday, December 13, 2009

Will anyone survive the night in 'Murder Mansion'?

Murder Mansion (aka "Maniac Mansion") (1972)
Starring: Evelyn Stewart, Andres Resino, Analia Gade, Annalisa Nardi and Alberto Dalbes
Director: Francisco Lara Polop and Pedro Lazaga
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A group of strangers, lost in the fog on isolated back roads, are forced to spend the night in a mansion at the edge of a cemetery. Although their hostess (Gade) seems welcoming enough, a night of murder and terror ensues.

"Murder Mansion" is a well-acted, well-filmed, and very moody gothic horror film. While it's got its fair share of characters doing stupid things just to move the plot along, and a few predictable twists, there are enough twists and startling surprises that the short-comings can almost be forgiven. If you like haunted house movies, I think you'll enjoy this film. (That's not to say the mansion our travelers find themselves trapped in is haunted... or is it? (Duhn-duhn-daaaaaah!))

With a surprisingly small amount of gore and nudity for an Italian horror film from the early 1970s, this film instead relies on effective camerawork and a decent script to bring the sort of chills and scares necessary to make a truly effective haunted house movie. It feels like they took the sensibilities of the thrillers and horror films from the late 1950s and early 1960s and updated them for the 1970s. If Hammer Films had done this--instead of going the more gore and boobs route--perhaps they would have lasted.