The House in Nightmare Park (1973) – Film Review

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Director: Peter Sykes
Cast: Frankie Howerd, Ray Milland, Kenneth Griffith
Certificate: PG

Review by Dan Berlinka

This DVD re-release of a 1973 comedy-thriller is being promoted as a parody of early seventies horror. But really it seems closer in spirit to a Cat and the Canary-era Bob Hope vehicle, in which a cowardly comedian quips his way through a bunch of bumps in the night. Here, a down at heel actor gives a private performance at an old dark house where a sinister plot is afoot.

Unfortunately, none of the elements come together. There are jarring variations in tone from broad comedy to creepy suspense – sometimes within the same scene. There are a couple of interesting talents behind the camera. Director Peter Sykes made a pair of minor Hammer films, while co-writer Terry Nation created the Daleks for Doctor Who, as well as the cult series Survivors and Blake’s 7.

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“Creaks as much as the spooky mansion’s wooden doors”

But despite a few flashes of style, after an atmospheric opening, the film starts to creak as much as the spooky mansion’s heavy wooden doors. Howerd’s performance is energetic and engaging but this is far from an ideal showcase for his frenetic semi-improvised stage act.

The lack of sharpness in the script means the buffoonery soon becomes tiresome. Frankie fans or seventies Brit-horror historians may find The House in Nightmare Park a curiosity worth checking out, but casual viewers are unlikely to find much to recommend it.


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