For this week’s movie, I wanted to watch something a little bit different than what I usually write about. I had been doing a lot of reading about Lon Chaney Jr a few weeks back and thought that I should watch one of his later films. You know, how fun does that sound? Well, I have no idea why but I thought Hillbillys in a Haunted House had a fantastic title. Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre but with everyone’s favourite werewolf!
Well, Hillbillys in a Haunted House is absolutely crap. Reading the Wikipedia summary before watching the film (I don’t like to look at IMDB and the like for give-away reasons), I thought to myself, “Hey, this sounds pretty quirky! And it’s a horror comedy. The 60s were great at that!” No. Apparently they weren’t. I think using the term “horror comedy” is a bit too loose. Plus I missed key give-aways like “the sequel to The Las Vegas Hillbillys” and “starring Ferlin Husky.” which most definitely point to danger.
But when I read that some of the world’s finest actors were in this, I was convinced. Ferlin Husky (in one of his last roles), Lon Chaney Jr and John Carradine were three names that I couldn’t pass up. Turns out Hollywood really, really can make you hate something you love so much.
Hillbillys in a Haunted House mostly focuses on the three main characters from the first film: country musicians Boots Malone and Woody Weatherby and Jeepers, the manager. Immediately there were warning signs that this was not the film for me as soon as the three of them opened their mouths and start singing some country song about going to Nashville or something. On their way, the gang drive through a shoot-out (completely unphased, mind you). When they inquire what’s going on, they’re informed that the police are targeting spies.
Shrugging off that incident, the trio get car trouble and head to a service station where the local Harbinger of Doom directs them to a place where they can stay the night – an abandoned mansion. As they drive off, the attendant shouts, “I forgot to tell ’em it’s haunted.” HA HA HA. Great stuff.
Anyway, the three arrive at the house and bring playing music (thank goodness because it’s only been about five minutes of plot since the last song). When Woody stops playing, a group of random men enter the house and they play a song. But for some reason, every song now sounds like it’s played in either a tin can or underwater.
See? I’ll share a clip that contains studio-quality audio that isn’t from the movie!
Gee! Wasn’t that a fun song?
Anyway, I’m sure there’s a point to this movie other than being painfully stupid. But it’s certainly taking it’s time. Eventually that tune-of-the-century “Cat Came Back” ends and everyone sees a fake skeleton doing a little jig over the fireplace mantel. This apparently is frightening, and the group of men all take off.
Meanwhile, there is a group of spies (Chaney, Carradine, Husky and actress Linda Ho) somewhere in the house. There’s a man in a gorilla suit that Lon has taken a liking too. Maybe the gorilla is explained at some point, but I missed it so I really don’t care about this stupid sub-plot. The spy’s goal is to steal a formula to sell to a group of Chinese… spies? Or something. Details don’t really matter here.
But enough of that, back to the good ol’ country gang. They discover that the house is in fact not abandoned as Boots discovers a room that is completely done up. In the room she finds a closet full of dress. Which can only mean one thing: another fucking song. Only this one is about dresses! Get it? BECAUSE SHE’S A GIRL!
This group are caught by Madame Wong and Lon (ha ha ha), but are told that they can stay the night. Why they don’t even question this is beyond me. But since they’re so stupid, they mostly just revel in the fact that the madame is kind enough to let them sleep on her dusty-ass couches. But since Jeepers is completely wound tight, he decides to stay up and watch the country music hour on TV (yay).
At this point, there’s a serious problem with people giving strange reactions in this film. It’s like they’re not watching or listening to whatever is going on in scene. When Boots is listening to anyone sing, she looks either extremely bored or like she has to pass gas. This scene with Jeepers watching TV literally makes so sense. The director probably told him that the spies are popping up on the TV, but considering most of the footage is of country singers, it’s completely weird.
Oh yeah. The spies randomly pop up on the TV screen Jeeper’s is watching. I don’t know why.
The spies in the basement think that the performers are also spies. So they get a move on with their project and send Madame Wong and Lon to steal “the formula” from a “top secret” room. I think the over-the-top-ness of everything is supposed to be funny. And I really do like a lot of retro humour, but how could anyone in any time get even a chuckle out of this shite? While the spies are all distracted, Boots is taken by the gorilla.
Eventually a police detective or whatever meets up with the boys. They show the man the “weird-wolf” costume they found in the closet earlier. Once again, there’s might have been a point about why said “weird-wolf” costume was in the closet but I honestly don’t give a fuck. It’s still a lame joke/reference.
Eventually the policeman saves Boots from the iron maiden that she was trapped in, but not before everyone starts seeing a Civil War-era ghost! See? It really is a horror movie! After the spies have their plan foiled, they decide to move on. But due to a… bright light (?) they are suddenly all handcuffed together.
The group seemingly having won the day depart from the house and continue on their way to the Nashville jamboree. To which I think “Finally! Really. About damn time the plot stopped all together! Who wants resolution?” The gang arrive and then there is nearly fifteen minutes of country music guests. Yep. Fifteen minutes. Because who needs an actual ending to a movie when you can just cram some ladies in sequins on screen?
But at least I could fast-forward this part and arrive at the ending. And really, it has been a while since I’ve been so relieved to reach the end of a film.
Hillbillys in a Haunted House is an excellent example if you want to see how a movie can completely waste the talent it hired! This was Jean Yarbrough’s last feature-length movie (not counting the made-for-TV The Over-the-Hill Gang, which sounds equally painful). It’s a shame that this was the last mark on a career that began with the Bela Lugosi film The Devil Bat.
Perhaps this film was going for a Scooby-Doo, Where are You? type of humour (though Scooby-Doo wasn’t around until 1969, two years after this was released). But there’s just something so disjointed in this movie. Maybe has a thirty-minute television slot, this could have been a bit funnier. But Hillbillys in a Haunted House has definitely put me off watching The Las Vegas Hillbillys and gee, I had been really, really tempted.