Jack Palance stars as a self-serving, abusive boor who becomes stranded (along with his two children) by a thunderstorm, forcing them to take shelter in an isolated country estate owned by a group of mysterious and wealthy old dowagers. Seeing a golden opportunity, Palance soon turns to plundering their estate, but his plans collide with the secret activities of a Satanic snake-cult who carry out ritual sacrifices in the attic. Written by
The crummy DVD-R that I own of "Evil Stalks This House" has the poorest picture and sound quality I've ever seen, and yet I struggled myself through because I really wanted to see this film. Why? Well, because I'm a giant fan of Jack Palance and director Gordon Hessler, and admittedly also because I'm a sucker for movies with sinister titles such as this one. This is definitely a curious little oddity, and very VERY obscure. It doesn't even run for one full hour, even though it is stated here 96 minutes, and in spite of his name being listed in the cast, Christopher Lee isn't anywhere in sight. As far as I can tell, this was the pilot episode of a TV- series that eventually never aired. The plot is reasonably compelling (albeit clichéd and predictable) and quite entertaining mainly thanks to Jack Palance's malevolent performance. He stars as a devious father of two, whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere late one night. They end up at a secluded old mansion where two seemingly defenseless old ladies live with a mentally handicapped man. Palance quickly notices that the house is full of antique treasures and refuses to leave. He even steals the heart medicine of one of the old women in order to blackmail her. Unfortunately for Jack, the old bags aren't as helpless as they seem and the house hides plenty of macabre secrets, like a lethal puddle of mud in the basement (?) and a witch coven in the attic. In spite of a couple ingenious moments (including the hilarious end twist) and an overall uncanny atmosphere, it's fairly easy to see why the format never became a long-running TV-series. The plot and characters are derivative and the production values are too poor. There's a notably creepy scene with a spider and another one with a dummy in the quicksand. Gordon Hessler has always been a sadly underrated but extremely skillful director in the horror genre. He started out with a handful of very ambitious fright-tales, like "The Oblong Box" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue", but then from the seventies onwards specialized in less notable TV- work.
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