Top critical review
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Wipe your feet on the way in
on 9 December 2002
Welcome to the Hammer House of Horror. Like any anthology series it's a bit of a mixed bag. There are some good stories and there are some less good stories. Despite the name, it's not much like Hammer horror at all- with their contemporary settings the episodes are more like extended versions of the stories from those old Amicus anthology films.
That's one of the show's biggest problems- most of the stories don't really justify their hour length, and come across as grotesquely padded. A half hour slot like Tales of the Unexpected would have been better. Actually Hammer House of Horror is very reminiscent of that show at times, except the 'twist' endings are usually a hell of a lot more obvious. Also, what with the show dating from 1980, the most horrific thing on display is usually the fashions. And the wallpaper.
But despite all this, it's actually a lot of fun. There's a good mix of different stories, usually pretty well written, and amazing casts of great British character actors. A lot of the stories have moments of real tension and shock- like in 'The House That Bled to Death', where a pipe bursts showering a children's party with blood: an unforgettable image.
My favourites: the Dead of Night-influenced 'Rude Awakening' with Denholm Elliott as a seedy estate agent trapped in a never-ending nightmare; the old-fashioned and brilliantly eerie werewolf tale 'Children of the Full Moon', featuring Diana Dors being sinister in a grey wig; and best of all, the darkly comic 'The Thirteenth Reunion' with mysterious goings-on at a weight loss clinic. It's like Fat Friends meets The League of Gentlemen.
The DVDs aren't overflowing with extras, but they're very nicely packaged, and are definitely recommended to anyone who likes distinctly British horror.