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Fangs for the Memories?
Hammer House Of Horror - Complete Collection (DVD)
Member Name: Drewster_Rooster
Hammer House Of Horror - Complete Collection (DVD)
Date: 30/11/11, updated on 30/11/11 (79 review reads)
Advantages: Nice Trip down Memory Lane, Some Good Episodes, Decent Acting in parts
Disadvantages: Dated, Not Scary, Some awful episodes
I was 8 years of age when Hammer House of Horror originally aired on ITV back in 1980 and as I often stayed with my grandparents on a weekend when I was a child I was allowed to watch TV programmes that my parents wouldn't let me see and definitely wouldn't approve of me watching. I loved horror films from an early age and grew up watching the old Hammer Dracula's and Frankenstein movies and I distinctly remember Saturday evenings when Hammer House of Horror came on simply down to the memorable theme tune and opening credits. This collection represents the single series run of 13 episodes that were produced by ITV and when I saw it available for under a tenner on amazon I decided to take a trip down memory lane, Horror has moved on since the eighties and whilst I was prepared for these episodes to feel dated the iconic theme music transported me back to being a nervously excited little boy when I put the first disc into my BluRay player and pressed "Play" on my remote. So what did I think of the stories and have they stood the test of time?...
Spread over 4 discs in 2 volumes the 13 stories contained in this Hammer House of Horror collection are a mixture of the supernatural, creature-feature, horror and thriller genres. Each episode runs for about around 50 minutes and all share similarities which I will discuss in this review, anyone around my age and older will probably remember seeing the show advertised on ITV back in 1980 and perhaps would have watched an episode or two if not the whole series at that time and whilst there will always be a special place in my heart and memory for the show I do have to admit to feeling a little underwhelmed, and dare I say, disappointed, after sitting down and watching all of the episodes again.
I won't discuss each of the episodes separately in this review as that would just drag it out, instead I will pick out what I liked and disliked and evaluate the series as a whole and whilst there were some highlights for me I do think that overall this collection is more miss than hit. I'll focus on the positives first though and much of the joy for me from some of the episodes came down to the big name stars who appeared in them. Peter Cushing features in probably the best episode, "The Silent Scream", in which he plays a meek pet-shop owner who has a secret collection of animals that he wants to add to. Cushing is reliably 'old school horror' and his inclusion in this episode is great to see as his performance here lifts what would have been quite a mediocre plot into something a lot more sinister. Similarly 80's favourite Diana Dors stars in another good episode "Children of the Full Moon" and manages to bring some spark to a werewolf featured story and plays against the blonde-bombshell type she was renowned for. Early appearances from Pierce Brosnan in a ludicrous tale of murder and Sian Phillips typically overacting in another are worth noting as are Brian Cox and Denholm Elliot, two more recognisable British film and TV faces and it seemed to me that the episodes which featured the 'big' names were probably the best amongst the collection as a whole.
The problem with the series for me comes down to the pacing of the episodes, horror has changed so much over the years that I think nowadays I'm more accustomed to fast and furious storylines that build in intensity and offer some twists and turns on the way rather than simply setting out a predictable and straight forward story. These episodes in Hammer House of Horror simply plod along with no momentum or impetus, they are terribly flat with hardly any surprises or twists and unlike "Tales of the Unexpected" a similar show from the same era they lack any 'stings in the tail' or amazing revelations that leave the viewer questioning what they have just seen. The acting ranges from wooden through to good depending on the episode and although I was expecting the special effects to now look dated they were a lot worse than I ever remembered. Blood looks like Cherryade which never really helps in any horror film or TV series and the make-up and visual effects are just unbelievable and for me the whole series looked cheaply made and cheaply produced and ultimately left me questioning why I loved this show so much back in my younger days.
I realise that time moves on and what frightened me as a child wouldn't necessarily frighten me now and perhaps I should have left Hammer House of Horror alone and not revisited it really. It was fun checking out the fashions of the age and the furniture that featured in the character's homes though as they reminded me of my childhood and as a trip down memory lane this was probably the best part of Hammer House of Horror for me as it did remind me of how life was like as an 8 year old growing up at that time. As far as the stories go though they're just not strong enough to hold up to scrutiny nowadays and I'm sure that many people would just laugh and find them ridiculous if they decided to give this series a go in 2011. This is a collection for those who remembered it at the time and maybe like me they hold fond memories of it, I don't think it has ruined my memories of the show though having watched it 30 years on, the theme music will always be the strongest part of the show for me and it's just a shame that the episodes have dated so badly but simply put, they're just not horrific or suspensful by any stretch of the imagination.
The Extra's on the DVD release are quite disappointing too, there are a few stills galleries included which are basically screen shots of the episodes along with written cast biographies. Nothing to get excited about and nothing that can't be found by looking online if you wanted to look, it's a shame that there wasn't much care or thought put into into the collection as it would have been nice to have had some interviews or cast recollections included. The DVD has a rating of 15 which is probably about right, there is some nudity and bad language and there are some themes which would be unsuitable for younger viewers although I originally watched these when I was 8 years of age and can't remember them affecting me too badly and even at 39, the age I now am, I don't think there's anything too explicit in the show's content that would scare anybody of any age really.
Overall then I had mixed feelings watching this collection of Hammer House of Horror stories, times have changed though and it's probably unfair of me to compare these stories with what's around now. I enjoyed some of the episodes, others were just terrible and my rating here of 3 stars reflects my overall disappointment with the collection as a whole. I paid under £10.00 for my 2 DVD box set which I think is reasonable, I certainly wouldn't recommend paying anything more than that but if you remember the show from back in the day then it might be worth checking out although now I've seen them I doubt I would want to watch them again any time soon. Maybe I should leave it another 30 years and see what they're like then...
Thanks for reading my review.
Summary: Hammer House of Horror TV series collection
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