The House on Straw Hill (1976)

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I really appreciate labels that dig deep to find funky flicks for us cinephiles to enjoy. I’m tired of the constant stream of re-releases and re-packing of the same old films. I got into film to discover the hidden and obscure, turning over rocks, digging into old video stores. It’s quite easy for a company to release a well known film, put it out with the minimum of care and collect their paychecks. Severin has made it a point to release the lesser known and the unknown films that lurk in the basements and closets of obscure directors. They take chances and always try to deliver the best they can for fans. They have respect for their fans and always try to do them right. The House on Straw Hill has been delayed several times since the announcement of it’s release. Usually that means you’re going to get a less than stellar release from most companies. Not so with Severin. After almost quitting the project a few times because of a very difficult print situation, detailed here they gave it the old college try to save the film from being destroyed completely. They went to the mat for this release and for us fans of obscure cinema. They could have easily looked at what they had (bad incomplete prints), and given up, letting the film be lost forever. But they didn’t. They pushed on and have given us the best looking uncut, uncensored version of the film we are ever likely to see. But that’s not all. Because of the relatively low quality (in their opinion) of the prints, they have also included a documentary 90 minute documentary Severin produced a few years ago about the video nasty craze in the U.K., which has never been released in the states until now. How’s that for bringing the goods? But that’s not all. If you order from them directly they’ll also throw in a vhs replica of The House on Straw Hill as it was released in the 80s in England for all you videovores out there. Amazing. So, they’ve clearly gone beyond the call of duty here but is the film any good?

First off, let’s address the picture quality. It isn’t that bad. Sure, there’s some scratches, and the color is washed out at times but given how bad the prints where that they were working with, it looks just fine. As the film progresses it looks better and better as well, some of the roughest stuff being at the beginning. Knowing the source material, I can’t complain. It looks just fine to me, certainly better than a fuzzy low quality VHS to be sure. The film itself is about a young author who escapes to the countryside to write his next book. He hires a typist from a local company so that he can dictate his novel. He’s having trouble getting it done and has to meet a strict deadline. He writes what sounds like sex filled fluff and of course his typist is hot. He has horrible bloody nightmares and hallucinations while having sex with his girlfriend. No fun for him. His typist is an oversexed young woman who seems to enjoy masturbating. A lot. I don’t want to give anything away here, keeping the review spoiler free, so lets just say some folks in the film die in very bloody ways and we get to some very sleazy sex scenes between pretty much every person in the film.

I read online that someone felt this movie was boring. They must have seen the cut version of the film, which admittedly would have been a slog to get through. This version was not. Filled with what the guys on Hello! This is the Doomed Show Podcast call “the vibe,” the feeling you get from certain euro-horror films, and packed to the gills with sleazy sex scenes and some over the top blood, this one is a winner for cult film fans. The plot moves along at a nice pace and everything just works. The acting is decent and the direction is solid. There really isn’t anything to complain about here, unless you don’t like your euro-horror sleazy, but is there any other kind? We get masturbation scenes, bloody flashbacks, a nasty seemingly almost consensual rape scene that thankfully ends horribly for the perpetrators, nasty murders, and Udo Kier (although he’s dubbed here). What more could you want? The Ban the Sadist Video documentary is great too. I was really excited about this as I have gone out of my way to see many of the original nasties on the list. I’ve read up on the subject but nothing beats a 90 minute documentary with interviews from the people that were there and were involved with the scare. The Video Nasties, for those that don’t know, were films deemed indecent by the British film board and were subsequently cut or outright banned. There were those that felt that the boom in video rentals and the new access to uncut horror movies would corrupt the youth and warp the adults. It’s a great thorough doc that’s well worth the price of purchase alone.

Severin knocked it out of the park with this release. They have shown that they are a company with integrity and a passion for film. They don’t want their customers to be unhappy and have really gone the extra mile here. I can’t wait to see what they dig up next!