“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.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Ralph Richardson Films
- Shelley Winters Films
- Widows and Widowers
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 … Auntie Roo 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.