The essence of cool, conniving film noir, the legendary Joan Bennett definitely presented herself as a horse of a different color with her appearance as the Rag Lady in the 1981 television terror This House Possessed. Here, roaming far from the perfect iciness of her roles in films like Scarlet Street, the adventurous Bennett plays a shabby small town oddity, driven to isolated madness by the secret at the heart of the film.
This mystery, of course, revolves around the titular mansion. Interestingly, taking its cues from other small screen genre projects that revolved around such possessed inanimate objects as bulldozers, taxidermy displays and hobby horses, the residence here is not haunted by ghosts or some hidden psychotic killer, but actually causes the movie’s mayhem through a monstrous will of its own.
…and the body count here is fairly high. A librarian dies in an explosion. A veteran character actor is finished off with a jagged shard from a trembling mirror and Bennett, herself, is exposed to the bubbling depths of an overheated pool. Add in a bloody shower and a very aggressive water hose (or two) and you have a project that has lived on in the memories of those who caught it on its original broadcast at impressionable ages.
Nicely, the more outrageous circumstances here are grounded by the gentle and committed leading performances of Parker Stevenson, as a rock star whose emotional collapse brings him to the malevolent domicile, and Lisa Eilbacher, as the nurse who helps him recover and soon wins his heart. Stevenson radiates with a genuine kindness and the music he performs comes off more like a softer version of the balladic work of Justin Timberlake than the cheesy pop that one associates with multiple television stars of that era.
Eagle eyed horror lovers will also delight to the presence of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss, billed here as Mandy, whose opening act frolicking with actor John Dukakis (Jaws 2) is wetly interrupted by the angry residence. She and Bennett, who became well known for her role on the beloved gothic soap opera Dark Shadows during the middle range of her career, also make this enjoyable oddity a happy exercise for lovers of the femme form in terror, as well.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!