Monday, January 9, 2012

The House on Skull Mountain (1974)

The House on Skull Mountain is one of those silly supernatural thrillers with just enough happening in terms of narrative intrigue and production values that if you came across five minutes of the movie on late-night TV, your curiosity might be piqued. Unfortunately, there are probably only about five interesting minutes in the entire bottom-of-the-barrel shocker. Worse, The House on Skull Mountain is rated PG, so even though the story has intimations of titillating occult weirdness, The House on Skull Mountain doesn’t even have the usual exploitation-flick distractions of gore and smut. The story begins when an old voodoo priestess dies in Georgia, triggering the invitation of several long-lost relatives to her estate for the reading of her will. As the movie’s title suggests, the woman lived atop a mountain with rock formations resembling a giant skull, which is such a goofy detail it makes the movie feel like an episode of Scooby-Doo. The relatives who gather include Lorena (Janee Michelle), a beautiful young black woman, and Dr. Andrew Cunningham (Victor French), the only white man in the group. Very quickly, the filmmakers reveal that the deceased’s faithful butler, Thomas (Jean Durand), is a voodoo priest conspiring to kill the relatives in order to inherit their family’s power, which leads to a climax in which Thomas dances around with a group of anonymous cultists. The movie also features several unexciting murder attempts, usually preceded by someone seeing a phantom skull floating in front of them. (Yawn.) The movie is adequately made, with crisp photography and a few decent-looking sets, but the script is a tedious muddle, and the acting is terrible. French, best known for roles on touchy-feely TV shows, tries in vain to make his scenes work, and Michelle, though quite lovely, is completely vapid. Only Durand provides much interest, but his campy performance isn’t reason enough to sit through this dreck.

The House on Skull Mountain: LAME

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