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Film Review: The House on Straw Hill (1976)

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SYNOPSIS:

A struggling writer moves out to the country to work on his second novel and decides to hire a secretary to help him type it out. Unfortunately it isn’t long before the people around him start dropping like flies and he realizes that he may be next.

REVIEW:

I wasn’t that familiar with The House on Straw Hill  (aka Trauma) before I saw it so I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into it. I have always been a fan of the always awesome Udo Kier and since he never fails to deliver I figured that I was in store for a hidden treasure that I never knew existed. While it is a little slow at times and there could have been a little more going on I’ll have to admit that after everything was said and done I really liked it and thought that it was a pretty awesome little suspense/thriller for the most part.  It reminded me of the incredibly underrated Jess Franco classic She Killed in Ecstasy (and the lesser impressive The Hand that Rocks the Cradle) for a lot of reasons and I have to say that I am glad that I got the opportunity to check this movie out as it had a lot going for it (including a very cool ending that I didn’t see coming).

I thought that it had a pretty cool premise and the entire time I was watching it I couldn’t help but think that it was very similar to something that Stephen King would write. The main character is a writer (something very common in King’s novels and short stories) that is lucky enough to have written a novel that is quite successful. He is having a great deal of trouble putting the finishing touches on his second novel as he has entered the infamous sophomore slump (another King trait) and decides to retreat to the secluded countryside to complete it.

At the urgings of his agent he hires a woman to help him type it up but there just seems to be something off about her as soon as we meet her (but he is still attracted to her, and since he just ended his relationship with his girlfriend he decides to pursue his desire to at least have sex with her). People start dying off and we aren’t sure who is behind it. Is it the secretary?

The ex girlfriend (who eventually shows up to pay Paul a visit), the weird housekeeper, or even Paul himself (as he keeps having these bizarre nightmares that suggest that he isn’t the most mentally stable guy in the world)? I’m not telling because part of the fun is trying to figure it all out before everything is revealed in the end.  I had a blast trying to put everything together (which I did for the most part) and thought that everything came together quite nicely at the end.

I also really dug the cast and thought that everyone did an exceptional job. Even though all of his lines are dubbed Udo Kier rocks as usual and I really liked the character that he played (even if he may or may not be the best person in the world and is more than a little shady). Linda Hayden did a great job as well as the not-all-there secretary that may or may not be a psychotic killer. I thought that she owned every scene that she was in and she should be proud of what she accomplished here. The same can be said for Fiona Richmond as well and even though she doesn’t get a great deal of screen time she does a pretty good job when we do see her (plus she is naked for the biggest majority of her scenes which is a definite plus). All in all I thought that everyone did a fantastic job of bringing their respective character to life and I don’t think anyone was guilty of turning in a bad performance.

I did like the end and thought that the big revelation that takes place was pretty cool. My only nitpick regarding the film’s conclusion was that it seemed a little rushed. We find out who the killer is and the person reveals their motivation (which is quite awesome if you ask me) and then the film just basically ends seconds later for some unknown reason. It is almost as if the filmmakers were just out of time and had to end it as quickly as possible after the big revelation.

I think that they could have milked it out a little more as the film literally ends seconds after we find out who is responsible for the murders. It wasn’t that big of a deal to be honest and didn’t really make me think any less of the movie but I think that the ending could have gone on just a tad bit more.  I’m thinking that the people behind it must have been very behind schedule and were rushing to finish things on time and the ending does suffer just a bit as a result.

I really dug The House on Straw Hill. It is a slow-burner and that might turn some viewers off but trust me when I say that it is worth it. I thought that it was well-written and interesting, and I personally dug the killer’s motivation (though as I said I just wish that they had spent a little more time on it after we find out why the person feels the need to go on a killing spree). Check it out if you are in the mood for a nice little suspense thriller, I think that you will be very surprised by how good it actually is.

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