Modern horror anthologies can be a mixed bag of goodies. Sometimes you get something sweet like Trick ‘r Treat (2007), but more often than not you get something that’s mostly sour like XX (2017). At their very best, horror anthologies are a proving ground for new directors and, at their very worst, they’re a transparent cash grab from low-budget production companies.
The House that Dripped Blood (1971) lands somewhere between sweet and sour, but it’s well worth a watch for the crisp and beautiful cinematography from Ray Parslow alone. This movie is a kaleidoscope of eye-popping color that will leave you begging for the swift return of Technicolor Film. This is not the desaturated world of Saving Private Ryan (1999), it’s the vibrant decadence of The Wizard of Oz (1939) seen through the eyes of a madman.
And who is this madman, you ask? It’s no other than Robert Bloch, the writer behind Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Based on four of Bloch’s short stories, The House That Dripped Blood links them together through each protagonist’s relationship with the eponymous building.
In the first segment “Method for Murder,” a horror writer portrayed by Denholm Elliott—best known to modern audiences as Marcus Brody in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)—moves into the house with his wife and becomes tormented by visions of his newest character.
“Waxworks,” anchored by a strong central performance from Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Star Wars (1977)), is the best segment of The House That Dripped Blood. Cushing plays a retired stockbroker who becomes infatuated with a wax statue that looks like a woman he once knew.
“Sweets for the Sweet” stars Christopher Lee as a stringent widower whose daughter may be more than she seems. This segment feels like the slowest and most dated because the twists and turns are common horror tropes that you’ll know well. If you start feeling antsy, stick with it; Lee is a powerhouse and gives it his all.
And rounding out the bill, “The Cloak” follows a temperamental actor (Jon Pertwee) and his co-star (Ingrid Pitt) who move into the house while shooting a vampire film nearby. The special effects are a little cheesy in this one. For instance, you can see wires that lift the actors and there are some ill-placed vampire teeth. But, all and all, “The Cloak” serves as a nice and tidy wrap up for the series.
You may think that The House That Dripped Blood was a Hammer Film Production since it features three of their most famous stars: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Ingrid Pitt. But actually, The House That Dripped Blood is a charming, early-70s horror anthology from Amicus Productions. Often seen as the little brother to the better-known Hammer Film Productions, Amicus tried to stand out by specifically specializing in horror anthology series—Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), Tales from the Crypt (1972), and Asylum (1972), for example.
While newer horror anthologies are heavy on gore and shock value, The House That Dripped Blood relies on simple, straight-forward storytelling that’s draped in gothic atmosphere. It’s a winning formula that is sure to entertain modern audiences and cinephiles alike.