The king of horror left his mark on the 1980s simply by leaving his mark on the title track from the king of pop’s massive album Thriller. But he also continued to appear in horror flicks, most of which I’ve already covered: The Monster Club, Dead Heat, House of the Long Shadows, and From a Whisper to A Scream.
At last, I take on what I believe are the final two Vincent Price horror flix from the 1980s that I’d not yet blogged about – horror comedy Bloodbath at the House of Death and horror anthology Escapes.
BLOODBATH AT THE HOUSE OF DEATH (1984)
This British horror parody manages to deliver touches of the slapstick humor of American comedies like Airplane. It also accomplishes something American horror spoofs fail to – it actually includes genuine horror elements, including gore! The goofy shenanigans do not detract from the gothic atmosphere and finely crafted horror setups, so you’re never allowed to forget that you are indeed in the horror universe even though you’re watching a comedy.
The intro scene has robed figures totally annihilating everyone sleeping inside a mansion.
Decades later, scientists gather at the mansion to investigate strange occurrences surrounding the massacre. Little do they know a sinister cult led by Vincent Price was behind the killings and is out for more blood!
Much like Clue, Bloodbath at the House of Death features quirky characters delivering deadpan lines as they contend with the insanity of the mansion. Among them is a pretty boy with amnesia, a scholar with a prosthetic leg, a woman with a tormented religious past, and a handsome gay couple.
And the horrors include dead bodies, an incubus, a bleeding bathroom, a killer Teddy bear, and of course, that evil cult.
Vincent Price’s presence is large, but his role is contained to his scenes instructing his cult members in their plot to destroy everyone in the mansion. This is Price at his campy horror best – he should have gotten his own horror sitcom after this performance. There’s a particularly funny exchange that was way ahead of its time. Out in the woods, Price repeatedly orders his minions to gather up all the faggots to burn, and one of the men keeps expressing how uncomfortable he is with Price saying it. Price’s reaction has me convinced if he were alive today, he would totally be a guest host on an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Price is the icing on the horror cake in this comedy. It’s astounding how much detail is put into the horror. A scene parodying Carrie has a woman beheaded with a can opener.
A “mole” bursts open to reveal something gruesome inside. A botched surgery is both darkly comic and bloody. Plus, there are classic comic moments poking fun at horror, like tension-building orchestral stabs actually coming from a man playing a cello, and a woman screaming at the sight of a bat in a dark tunnel, which results in a baseball bat falling from the ceiling and hitting her male companion in the head.
If there’s any flaw to Bloodbath at the House of Death, it’s that more and more strange “twists” are tossed in as the story progresses and never quite come together. Yet, considering this is a parody, it kind of makes perfect sense that it’s so fricking weird in the end. However, it’s not even funny weird. It’s more like, “that shit was bizarre” weird. And that once again reminds us – at the last moment – that we were immersed in a horror universe, not a comedy universe.
While this isn’t exactly the most memorable “anthology film,” it definitely has some notable aspects. For starters, it didn’t originate as an anthology film. A bunch of short films were just lumped together so it could be marketed as a movie. These days, gathering short films together for release as an anthology film has become standard practice.
Also, the film revolves around stories originating from a videotape. Yes indeed, a horror anthology about stories seen on a V/H/S…. Plus, the wraparound that was filmed featuring Vincent Price as a mailman that delivers the videotape has all the baddies from the short stories come back to get the main guy who watches the tape, another twist used very often in horror anthologies these days.
The face we used to make when we hit play on the VCR remote.
Price is not a “star” of any of the stories here. His role is extremely minor. He does serve as “host” of the stories – when the young man who gets the tape pops it into the VCR, it’s an anthology film called Escapes hosted by Vincent Price (trippy).
The Twilight Zone hook of the wraparound is befitting, because these stories aren’t exactly “horror.” Some are eerie, but I’d say they’re mostly like low budget attempts at Amazing Stories episodes. Here’s the breakdown:
“Hobgoblin Bridge” – This is one of my faves and a perfect Spielberg wannabe. Bratty boys warn another boy that the hobgoblin will get him if he tries to cross the covered bridge on his bike. Little monster time!
“A Little Fishy” – A quick and silly nature strikes back tale.
“Coffee Break” – This one has a good 80s horror vibe, complete with neon lights at just the right moment, but the creepy townsfolk plot is nothing new. It feels like one of the weaker Tales from the Darkside episodes.
“Who’s There” – This one starts out with promise of horror. Something has escaped from the nature preserve. But after some POV in the woods and a chase scene with a jogger, the big confrontation turns whimsical!
“Jonah’s Dream” – This is definitely a sappy Amazing Stories clone about a woman waiting for the moment her deceased husband’s dream from years before about finding gold on their farm will come true.
“Think Twice” – Another Amazing Stories plot, this one is about a homeless man finding a magic crystal.
Now that I’ve outlined each story in Escapes for this blog, I must say…my “fave” is pretty much the only story I really liked here, with “Coffee Break” being a welcome addition because at least it’s a horror theme. And the Vincent Price VHS tape hosting job in-joke is a bonus, as is him closing out the film with his diabolical laugh.