“Hammer House of Horror” (1980)
Created by: Roy Skeggs
Featuring: Jon Finch, Warren Clarke, James Cosmo, Denholm Elliott, Geoffrey Beavers, Nicholas Ball, Janet Fielding, Peter Cushing, Brian Cox, Diana Dors, Pierce Brosnan, Barbara Ewing and Gareth Thomas
Narrator: “Have you ever spent the night in an empty theatre?”
Recently released on Blu-ray and DVD is the horror anthology series from four decades ago, “Hammer House of Horror” (1980) which sees like many similar shows of its era a number of different actors, writers and directors coming together to create some macabre stories that have originality as well as scares for audiences of the time.
An anthology series created by Hammer Films in association with Cinema Arts International and ITC Entertainment, it consists of thirteen hour-long episodes, originally broadcast on ITV.
Each self-contained episode features a different kind of horror. These vary from witches, werewolves and ghosts to devil-worship and voodoo, but also include non-supernatural horror themes such as cannibalism, confinement and serial killers.
If you are any kind of movie watcher then you recognise the name ‘Hammer’ as the English production company that turned out horror movies for decades so it seems obvious that at some point they would enter the world of television which they did with this short lived series. Even though the Hammer movies were low budget affairs this series is even lower but they does not effect the quality of the storytelling which is very high. This series is fun to watch and worth every penny.
The episodes are presented in full frame transfers, as intended. Most of the episodes show minimal age signs some look brand new. Some look better than others, but all look acceptable and most are superb in overall visual presentation. The materials have little in terms of grain and debris, while colors and contrast look good also.
The audio isn’t as impressive as the video, but for mono tracks from this era they sound very good. The music sounds very good in some of the episodes and solid in all of them, while dialogue is clean and never hard to understand.
Witching Time: After a fierce storm, a musician goes out to his barn to check on his wife’s horse, but discovers something unexpected instead. He finds a young woman lying in the hay, who claims to be a witch from the 1600s and while she was to be burned, she managed to transport herself here, to save her own life. Of course, the man finds this to be laughable and after he locks her in a room, he calls his doctor to have a look. But she is gone when the doctor arrives, which leads the man to think he is having mental issues, mainly due to his excessive work habits and a starlet wife, whom he thinks is cheating on him.
The Thirteenth Reunion: It seems like a new weight loss fad comes and goes every day, but at a new special clinic, the results speak for themselves. Sure, lots of diets work for a while, but then you add back the pounds, though this clinic promises no such relapses. But there is something about this place that just seems off kilter, despite the success stories.
Rude Awakening: I think we’ve all had the same dreams a few times, where we revisit them each night, as opposed to new ones. While that can be good if the dreams are pleasant, returning nightmares can be horrific, perhaps even remaining with you after you wake.
Growing Pains: A lot of people find poetry fun to read and quite relaxing, but in this case, it turns out to be a terrible mistake. A very unusual poem is the central force in this story, as after it has been read, a spirit from the realm of the dead is awoken. If the book that houses has some type of solution, can it be found and recited in time to keep the spirit under control, or will this vengeful undead force remain free forever, to wreak chaos?
The House That Bled to Death: We’ve all heard stories of haunted houses, but most are urban legends or tall tales, right? When some new people move into the house at 42 Colman Road, they have no idea what horror lurks inside the place, but soon enough, they will know. This house is haunted and for real, as all sorts of hideous events and happenings unfold, all to the total terror of the new residents, to be sure.
Charlie Boy: In spooky stories, we sometimes hear about cursed objects or such, where an inanimate object comes to life, for whatever reason. While that seems hokey to most people, some folks are about to discover first hand how real the situation can be. An African souvenir is involved here and it has been involved in voodoo rituals, which means some of that voodoo passed into it and of course, that’s bad news.
The Silent Scream: An ex-con has been released from prison and seeks to start over again, perhaps on the right side of the law this time. As such, he finds himself a job and tries to walk the straight & narrow, but little does he know how tough that can be. His newfound profession involves a lot more underhanded tasks than he expected, which means he could be on the fast track back to prison, or perhaps an even worse fate, should he leave.
Children of the Full Moon: After he awakes from a hideous nightmare, a man discovers he is back in his own life, free from the horror of his bad dream. It all seemed so real to him though, as it if it were real and he was trapped in the middle of it all. But now he has woken up and is resting inside of a hospital, pleased to have ended his miserable dreams.
Carpathian Eagle: A series of brutal murders has started, which seem to be connected in many ways, which means one person or group is behind them. As one of the top inspectors delves into the rash of killings, he discovers there seems to be more to these crimes than meets the eye, but he is unable to believe his own eyes.
Guardian of the Abyss: I assume that antique dealers run into all sorts of unusual items, some from times long ago and now, the items might be useless or used for a different purpose. But some items remain useful and one of those items could be a mirror, which collectors often like to attain, as old, unbroken ones can be quite valuable.
Visitor from the Grave: A young woman is alone inside a cottage, which is off the beaten path and quite isolated, to be sure. But she is soon joined by someone else, although this is unwanted intruder and in a desperate turn of events, she kills this unwanted visitor. It would seem her troubles were over for right now, but even though this intruder is dead as can be, the young woman is about to visited again, by a much darker force this time.
The Two Faces of Evil: I’ve heard a lot of stories about insane hitchhikers and the like, where the hitcher kills, rapes, or scars the driver kind enough to pick them up. But unlike most urban legends, the tales of the hitchhikers have some truth, as a lot of people have been killed, raped, or seriously wounded by the folks they’ve picked up.
The Mark of Satan: A morgue is an eerie place to work, as it can mess with your mind, cause you to see or hear things that aren’t even there. So when a young man starts out as a worker in one, he tries to prepare himself, to avoid those kind of issues. But some events arise that make him question his situation, which at first he assumes are due to his mind, not some horrific deed.