House of Horrors (1946)

HouseOfHorrorsPosterThis is another one of those Rondo Hatton movies about a really ugly dude named the Creeper who breaks people’s spines. Aside from the fact that the guy’s name is Rondo, you may be wondering what qualities he had that made Universal want to build a no-budget thriller franchise around his Creeper character.

Well, he was afflicted by some type of disease that made him bumpy and humpy (see the review of The Brute Man for all the icky details) and he also had no acting ability, no screen presence, or any way to say his lines so that you could understand him, let alone believe what he was saying.

Luckily, the filmmakers realized what a gem they had on their hands and limited Rondo’s dialogue to very short sentences and phrases. Even with this abbreviated speaking role, you quickly come to the conclusion that the Creeper would have been a much more effective villain if he had been The Mute Creeper.

Marcel de Lange is a sculptor who lives hand to mouth, mainly because his pieces are dreadful. Marcel though is one of those guys who thinks that all he needs to do is sell a sculpture and then he will be set for life.

It just so happens that he has been working on a piece for some guy with more money than synapses and the dude is coming over this very night to pick it up and pay Marcel handsomely for it. Unfortunately he also brings an art critic who kills the deal with a bad review.

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Marcel heads to the docks to pout and contemplate suicide or whatever it is that artists who overestimate their own talent do once they realize they should have taken that factory job right out of high school. He looks down into the swirling water and what does he see? A flashback!

And not just any flashback, but a flashback of the scene we just saw! It was great. In case you happened to miss the first five minutes of the movie, they were going to catch you all up in minute number six.

Finally, he sees a body in the water and pulls out Rondo Hatton! We know that Marcel is a demented artist at this point because anyone else would have thrown Rondo back into the water, but he takes Rondo home and nurses him back to health!

They become friends and Marcel mopes around at dinner complaining about the column that art critic Holmes Harmon wrote making fun of him and the next thing you know, Rondo is outside killing prostitutes. I guess that was just to get his sea legs back under him because it isn’t too long before he’s skulking over to HH’s newspaper office in the middle of the night.

After the Creeper dispatches Harmon, an artist named Steven who Harmon also gave bad reviews to is implicated in the killing. The police arrange with a reporter to bait a trap for Steven.

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The plan is that the reporter will write a mean column about Steven. The reporter will then wait in his house until Steven shows up to kill him. This admittedly ingenious plan goes off without a hitch and the cops even manage to catch Steven trying to wring his neck, but the plan goes awry because the reporter wrote in his column that Steven stunk just like this sculptor named Marcel. Oops!

The Creeper strikes yet again thus inadvertently clearing Steven. Well, except for the attempted murder which Steve did do of course!

Steven’s girlfriend begins sniffing around Marcel. After managing to kill the wrong woman, the Creeper overhears Marcel threatening to betray him which leads to a particularly ugly falling out between the Creeper and Marcel.

House Of Horrors gets a little credit for trying to build a story that has more to do than just Rondo running around snapping spines, but unfortunately we get the old tale of the artist getting revenge on his critics.

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That’s okay, but what is the deal with the Creeper? Just because he got pulled out of the water and saved by this guy, he feels obligated to kill on his behalf? But only when he’s not killing hookers on his own?

Another problem is the utter lack of information about who the Creeper is. Since all that information would be revealed to a breathless world the next year in The Brute Man, anyone who went to this movie must have been thinking “what is going on here?”

How is anyone supposed to care enough to bother with House Of Horrors since there is nothing compelling about the Creeper as he is presented here? There’s no motivation attributed to the Creeper, no reason for his fury and rage.

The movie relies solely on Rondo’s looks (or lack thereof) to define its monster, but in doing so it sacrifices any depth in his character that would have made this film more than the forgettable “killer on the loose” movie it was.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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