Don’t Go in the Attic – Rediscovering ‘The House That Screamed’ (Spain 1969 – 105 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - December 03, 2013
Don’t Go in the Attic – Rediscovering ‘The House That Screamed’ (Spain 1969 – 105 mins)

Stylishly directed by Narciso Ibanez Serrador, the excellent 1969 Spanish gothic horror ‘The House That Screamed’ is a favourite among euro fans and is, for me, one of the most accomplished movies of the genre.

Pretty Cristina Galbo plays Teresa, an innocent new student who enrolls at a 19th century French boarding school for troubled girls. Strict headmistress Senora Fourneau (acclaimed actress Lilli Palmer) runs the school with an iron rod, using head girl Irene (Mary Maude) to control the others, often using tortuous methods. All the while, some of the girls have been mysteriously disappearing from the school.

One stormy night, while investigating the disappearances, Fourneau’s investigation leads her to the attic, where she makes a gruesome discovery of unimaginable horror.

Also known as ‘La Residencia’ and ‘The Boarding School’, ‘The House That Screamed’ boasts some superb cinematography by Manuel Berenguer, who uses his camera wonderfully, creating great tension as it stalks the hallways and passages of the vast college. The movie features one of the most memorably staged murders in horror film history. Late one night, one of the girls, Isabelle (Maribel Martin), has arranged a liason with Fourneau’s son Luis (who lives at the college). After entering a conservatory looking for Luis, a dark silhouette suddenly rises into view, before silently grabbing Isabelle before killing her. An expertly shot sequence, which utilises close-ups, slow motion, and ends with the music score becoming eerily disjointed.

19 year old Spanish actress Cristina Galbo is ideal as the nervous newcomer to the school. Galbo went on to appear in 1971’s ‘What Have They Done to Solange?’, the zombie favourite ‘Living Dead At Manchester Morgue’ (1974), and the excellent giallo ‘The Killer Must Kill Again’ (1975). 16 year old John Moulder-Brown plays Palmer’s over-protected son Luis. Acting since early childhood, Moulder-Brown later appeared in Hammer’s ‘Vampire Circus’, and Visconti’s biopic ‘Ludwig’ (both 1972). His most acclaimed role was that of Mike in Jerzy Skolimowski’s cult 1970 drama ‘Deep End’, with a young Jane Asher.

British actress Mary Maude almost steals the show with a delicious turn as head girl Irene. Mary never had a role this good again, and apart from a few high profile pictures (spy thriller ‘Scorpio’, and drama sequel ‘Man at the Top – both 1973), her later career was confined mainly to television. Also good was another under-rated British actress; Pauline Challoner, who plays the rebellious Catalina, who’s tortured by Irene for her disobedience.

Director Serrador would go on to make the controversial and sometimes disturbing ‘Who can Kill a Child?’ in 1975. Before that however, he devised the popular Spanish variety-quiz show ‘Un, dos, tres… responda otra vez’, which became a big hit in the UK as ‘3-2-1’.

The beautiful soundtrack was by lauded Argentine composer Waldo de los Rios. Rios had a prolific and successful musical career, but depression haunted him, and in 1977 he committed suicide at the age of 35.

Filled with rain-soaked night time exteriors, and beautifully lit shadowy interiors, ‘The House That Screamed’ is a wonderfully atmospheric horror film, richly deserving of its cult reputation. Well worth seeking out, and an ideal watch on a dark, stormy night.

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