Bloodbath At The House Of Death
It's August the 12th, 1975
give or take a day. At
the local "Businessmen's weekend retreat and girls summer camp",
dirty work is afoot. Robed monk-like figures are on the prowl, and it's
not long before they burst in and massacre everyone inside the building
in a welter of orgiastic violence - a couple are blasted in their bed
with a shotgun, others are stabbed, slashed, thrown out of windows and
hung from the rafters. One girl backs away from her attacker pleading
for her life, but even her promises of a bit of passion are rudely snuffed
The next day the police find the house covered with severed body parts,
but they have no idea who's responsible for this carnage.
You'd be forgiven, from this opening description, for thinking that Bloodbath
At The House Of Death might be some forgotten "video nasty"
which slipped into oblivion after suffering a BBFC ban in the early 80s.
Surprisingly enough, not only was it a mainstream release, but it's a
comedy, brought to you by "cuddly" Kenny Everett and
his team in a supreme example of "what were they thinking?"
These opening scenes are some of the strongest, over-the-top images seen
in British cinema, perhaps because the casual viewer would be expecting
Sid Snot and Captain Kremmen to appear, and not a bunch of sadistic monks
enthusiastically hacking up what looks suspiciously like Pan's People.
There have been a few clues as to the films supposed comic roots - the
monks have already proved to be clumsy oafs as they make their way through
the woods around the house ("Oh
shit!") and the police
chief (Barry Cryer) supervises the clean-up operation unaware that there's
blood dripping onto his hair from a severed head above him (no, it's actually
not a hugely funny moment now I come to think about it
But so far the film has been a distinctly dour affair. And things aren't
going to get a whole lot lighter for the next 80 minutes, no matter how
Kenny and his band of British sitcom stalwarts try.
is a mixture of gross-out horror/comedy (there's
an awful lot of blood splattering the walls), typical Everett zaniness
(his character has a German accent and a false leg, of course) and skits
on genre favourites (American Werewolf,
Carrie, Jaws, The Entity, The Shining, Alien,
a touch of Star Wars, maybe even City
Of The Dead
see how many you can spot). It just seems that someone
forgot to put in any actual jokes. But if you enjoy films on the level
of "stupid" and don't worry much about things like plot, dialogue,
or humour with a best before date of 1970 (in particular Cleo Rocos' "18
in one night" joke), you will find something to enjoy, I promise.
It's also the last British horror film to feature Vincent Price, and for
that it must surely deserve a place somewhere on the Brit horror hall
The story skips forward to the present day (ie the early 80s), when Everett
and fellow scientist Pamela Stephenson are on their way to Headstone Manor
(the scene of the opening massacre) to conduct research into radioactive
phenomena there. They stop off at the local pub, where all goes quiet
when he mentions the mansion's name. However, it turns out that the locals
are shocked because Everett's flies are undone (this is about the level
of the humour on show. I'm ashamed to record that I laughed). They notice
that a strange emblem is plastered all over the walls, and repeated on
tattoos on the locals' skin and anywhere else it might raise a cheap laugh.
An attempt by Everett to explain how the 18 people were killed at the
manor all those years ago leads to a pub sing-along (to the tune of "The
12 Days Of Christmas").
Thankfully, after this the pair carry on to the manor, where they meet
up with the rest of Everett's team (Gareth Hunt, Don Warrington, Sheila
Steafel, John Hill, John Fortune and Cleo Rocos).
Enter Vincent Price as the leader of a nearby coven, who lends a much-needed
gravitas to the proceedings, despite having to extract a few even cheaper
laughs by the simple act of swearing ("Piss off? For seven hundred
years I have served our master
You piss off!"). He's
in full-on ham-it-up mode, blow-torching dummies (shades of Phibes
there), holding forth with huge monologues about worshipping Satan, and
pronouncing words like "hobbledehoys" with a worrying amount
of lip-smacking relish.
Vincent: "The master returns
tonight!" / Acolyte: "How
shall we recognise him?" / Vincent: "You'll know him when you
see him, stupid!"
Back at Headstone Manor, we're learning more about the scientific group
through some weird flashbacks. Everett's character used to be a surgeon,
but was struck off for overreacting when everyone (including the patient)
started laughing at his ineptitude during a gory operation ("I know
what it's like to be laughed at!" he says at one point. It's worth
mentioning here that he's probably not talking about this particular film).
Steafel's character is psychic and it turns out that as a teenager she
killed her God-bothering mother (who walked around wearing a mini confessional)
Carrie-style by chopping her head off with a tin opener (a well
done, if slightly implausible, effect).
In case you hadn't noticed, if there ever was a plot it has now completely
vanished and has been replaced by a rag-bag of variable sketches, the
best of which involves Price and his acolytes getting ready to storm the
mansion (again) and make it ready for the arrival of the devil (or something).
Vincent is leading a chant, with his acolytes repeating each line
"Oh master, we are preparing for your arrival
because you are the prince of darkness
and we are your
Oh shit! My hand!" (repeated)
"Stupid bloody candles!" (repeated)
"Shut up! Stop it! Will you stop it!" (all repeated)
"There's always one
" (pause, and then repeated by one
"To the woods!" (fight breaks out)
Seriously, this is the funniest moment of the whole film. Other sketches
include a literal library, with the titles of each book becoming a reality
("The Sudden Spear", "The Silent Fart"), Pamela Stephenson
doing a "no means yes" rape scene with an invisible assailant
("No! No! Oo.. this is fantastic! I get it, I'm just another one
I suppose I'll never see you again
Everett squirming Alien-style on the kitchen table before revealing
he's just got a bad case of wind.
All Price's acolytes then blow up and are recreated as doppelgangers of
the scientists. The scientists are then messily killed and replaced, one
by one, in a variety of ever more stupid ways (the best one being a bathroom
scene where blood starts pouring from every tap, the shower, and even
the walls before the victim is pulled into the toilet by a pair of bloody
The ending is, if anything, even more lame than the proceeding 80-odd
minutes and could rank as the worst I've ever seen ("I don't know
what she sees in him
has been described as "desperate" and
"a disaster" (Andy Boot in Fragments Of Fear), and in
his marvellous tome English Gothic, Jonathan Rigby actually said
"words cannot adequately describe how bad Bloodbath At The House
Of Death is". Seeing the film today, both these reactions seem
a bit harsh. Yes, Bloodbath
is saddled with many jokes that
just don't work, and a few that raise a laugh just because they're so
bad (for example the one famous scene, when spooky Jaws music turns
out to be Everett sitting on the toilet playing the cello). But the opening
scene, the inclusion of Vincent Price and one or two effective horror
skits raise it slightly above the level of "unmitigated".
It's a film of halves - half the jokes work (on a very base level), half
the ideas are okay, and there's even half a plot. Considering the talent
on display it's an obvious missed opportunity. With a faster pace and
a stronger plot (things begin to happen for no reason at all and with
little thought for continuity - it's never explained what the devil worshippers
are actually up to, and most of the scientist's deaths make no sense at
all), it could have been a winner. There's a glimmer of what could have
been towards the end, when Everett screams "Look out! Aagh! A bat!"
and gets clunked on the head by
"A cricket bat?"
(a secret door opens) "Must've been an opening bat
A few more jokes like that and we'd have a winner on our hands.