“You children don’t want to leave here! You have a home here — forever!”
A demented widow (Shelly Winters) whose young daughter died in an accident many years earlier entices a young orphan (Chloe Franks) to come live with her in her mansion — but Franks’ brother (Mark Lester) believes Winters is a witch, and is determined to rescue Franks (and himself) from her clutches.
Following in the dubious footsteps of What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971), Who Slew Auntie Roo? inexplicably gives away a major spoiler in its very title — an inauspicious sign for what amounts to a disappointing entry in the Grande Dame Guignol (or “Psycho Biddy”) horror subgenre (kicked off by Robert Aldrich’s classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?). The primary problem with WSAR? is that Winters’ deeply troubled character is pitiable rather than fearful, given that we see early on how her daughter died in a tragic incident (rather than, say, being murdered); we therefore never really believe the two orphans are in serious danger. Instead, Lester — who apparently is convinced he’s trapped in the story “Hansel and Gretel” — emerges as the unlikely villain of the piece, convincing his sister that “Auntie Roo” is going to stuff them and eat them for dinner. Meanwhile, other plot elements — such as the presence of Winters’ manipulative butler (Michael Gothard) working in cahoots with a sham medium (Ralph Richardson) to convince Winters her daughter is communicating with her — are poorly resolved. Winters tries hard with the material she’s given, but this one is only must-see for her diehard fans.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Some campily creepy moments
- Fine sets
No; feel free to skip this one.