House That Screamed, The / La Residencia (1969)

“If they want to escape, they will — this is a boarding school, not a prison!”

Synopsis:
A mysterious killer threatens teenage girls at an authoritarian boarding school run by Lilli Palmer.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “scary gothic horror film” — recognized today as a definitive example of modern European slasher flicks — is skillfully directed by Narcisco Ibanez Serrador, “particularly during [the] terrifying murder scenes”. Unfortunately, it suffers from noticeable dubbing, a plethora of boarding-school stereotypes (harsh headmistress, sexually repressed young teens), and too many protagonists (it’s hard to tell the girls apart at times). One watches primarily for the atmospheric chills, the spooky cinematography, and the impressive set designs. While the identity of the killer doesn’t come as much of a surprise, the final scene nonetheless remains startling.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Lilli Palmer as the grim, authoritarian headmistress
    Lilli Palmer
  • Many moments of well-directed tension
    Tension

Must See?
No, but film fanatics may be curious to check it out.

Links:

One Response to “House That Screamed, The / La Residencia (1969)”

  1. Just about in thorough agreement with the assessment here – and, yes, it is a “definitive European slasher flick”. However, it does fall short of being a must.

    Director Serrador helms prime cult material rich with opportunity – an all-repressed-yet-delinquent girls’ school – but can only exploit what the plodding, vaguely misogynistic screenplay allows. (A creepy ‘Girls Town’ it ain’t.) There are very long waits prior to the shocking moments that, admittedly, are handled effectively and with imagination. But the bulk of the film is so stretched out with non-verbal build-up that it could almost be a silent.

    That said, fanatics who gather in small groups for this kind of film may still be able to bring their own brand of humor to it – even if the film is too earnest for a few unintentionally hilarious lines that would give it a boost. To slightly comic effect, the girls shower in their nightgowns (why is Palmer not bothered when one of them defiantly strips?); there is one overwrought sequence in which the girls imagine the arranged experience one of them is having with the (ahem) ‘woodman’; there can be much speculation about Palmer’s repressed lesbian tendencies (an early sequence confirms this in the dialogue but her one physical expression is noticeably snipped).

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