You know how that old saying goes: nothing brings lovers and family closer together better than an old-fashioned possession.
No? Not a saying? Well it should be.
The House That Would Not Die has all the hallmarks of horror TV movies from this era. The dramatic pauses, the use of storms for even more drama and kind-of-clunky writing. So basically everything I love. The fact that this story throws in ghosts, séances and possessions means that it was completely up my alley.
The excellent atmosphere reminded me on of my favourite made-for-TV movies: Home for the Holidays. Just with a touch less lightning. So it wasn’t totally surprising to learn that they were both directed by John Llewellyn Moxey (who also directed The City of the Dead).
At the heart of both of Moxey’s films are the women. Here glamorous Ruth and her niece Sara move into an old house after one of their elderly relatives die. They both immediately take to the home and all of its old-timey quirks. Sara instantly feels at home, knowing the house almost instantly.
The two women soon meet their dashing next-door neighbour, the professor Pat McDougal. At a party at his house, they meet his young student Stan. When the other guests meet the town’s new arrivals, they soon all agree to have a séance in the new home.
In the days before the party, Sara and Stan begin to spend more time together. They find an old painting of a man and bring it to the house. When they hang it up, Pat has a rather negative reaction, feeling suddenly ill.
Despite the growing instances of strange behaviour and dreams from nearly everyone, the group continue on with the seance. Only things don’t go very well. The painting falls from the wall and crashes into the fire.
Sara’s behaviour takes increasingly strange turns. She finds herself out of bed at night, crying for help. She begins to forget things when she behaves madly (including attacking our dear Ruth).
But it’s Stan who is the first to realise that Ruth is possessed. Not only is she possessed, so is Pat, who randomly becomes violent and aggressive. Stan drags in Ruth to help research the home, which is clearly linked to the possessions. The gang all band together to discover the truth.
They soon find out that the house was once home to a Revolutionary War General named Campbell. He supposedly went mad after his daughter left. The daughter, Amanda, is clearly the spirit inhabiting Sara.
With their little information, the group decide to have another séance. This time they’re given a clue when the cellar door is blown open by the winds. While Ruth and Stan do their digging in the cellar, they discover a walled-off room.
But before they can even get upstairs, creepy Pat stops them to tell them about the new information he and Sara learned: Amanda had eloped and run away from her father.
With this new information, all the pieces begin to fall into place. The four friends all must face the truth in the room on the other side of the wall.
I loved this little horror-mystery. Certainly a positive note to end another Made-for-TV March on. Sure, it’s a little hokey. But it’s also sufficiently fun with a good story.
It doesn’t hold a candle to Home for the Holidays. It doesn’t have the same punch or thrill to really make it memorable in a year’s time. But with good performances and a fun plot, it’s difficult to argue against spending 70 minutes watching this.