For this writer, no horror scribe can touch Richard Matheson. From his prolific screenwriting for The Twilight Zone (16 episodes, including the most popular, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”) to his short stories (“Steel,” “Button, Button” and “The Edge”–one of the most holy-crap-drop-the-book endings ever) and novels (“A Stir of Echoes” and the brilliant “I Am Legend,” which single-handedly launched the mass onslaught concept that permeates the modern zombie-apocalypse genre), Matheson is unequaled in his ability to scare the living daylights our of a reader with minimal narration and description. He could do more in five pages than most authors can do in five hundred.
And though several of his books and shorts have been adapted to film, the crowning horror masterpiece of that collection is 1973’s “The Legend of Hell House (based on his ’71 novel, Hell House).” Matheson provided the screenplay, and, like most of his other work, substance trumps flash. The effects are pleasantly underplayed, but the funky camera angles, tension-heavy performance and shadowy atmosphere create a wonderfully spooky haunted house tale that could teach modern filmmakers a thing or three.
And it can teach the rest of us a little bit about faith.
Now there’s a scary thought…
You’d think they’d know better.
They’re a group of the smartest folks in their respective fields. But when physicist Lionel Barret (Clive Revill) and mediums Florence Tanner (the spiritual one; Pamela Franklin) and Ben Fischer (the physical one; Roddy McDowell) are challenged by an eccentric billionaire to spend a week in the most notorious house on earth to prove once and for all if ghosts are real, they jump right in. And if they can, they’ll score a sweet financial payday. But they should know, if someone dares you to do anything for money, it never works out well (Fisher especially, he was the lone survivor of an investigation in to the house twenty years prior).
The home in question belonged to physical giant and sexual deviant Emerich Belasco (Michel Gough, long before he became Tim Burton’s Alfred Pennyworth) whose ideas of fun included murder, canabalism, vampirism, bestiality and a laundry list of even more appalling pastimes. Belasco supposedly disappeared after a mass murder at his home, which is now believed to be haunted by the ghosts of his victims.