A staple of early genre films was the “old dark house” film. Apart from the Boris Karloff/James Whale film of the same name, there was The Cat And The Canary, The Ghoul, The Bat and a host of others. Several were remade in more recent times but the genre doesn’t update well, even Peter Walker failed to revive it with his all-star House Of Long Shadows. Now first time director Jack McHenry and co-writer Alice Sidgwick try a new approach with Here Comes Hell.
Shot in academy ratio black and white and opening with a warning for those of a nervous disposition to leave the theatre. Here Comes Hell starts out with American oilman George Walker Jr (Tom Bailey) being told about the history of the manor that is his destination. His friend Victor (Charlie Robb) has recently bought the former home of Ichabod Quinn (Nicholas Le Prevost) an Aleister Crowley type black magician.
Victor has invited a few guests to celebrate besides George. His sister Christine (Margaret Clunie) who is also George’s ex-fiance. Tennis pro Freddie (Timothy Renouf), and Freddie’s fiance Elizabeth (Jessica Webber). He’s also invited medium Madame Bellrose (Maureen Bennett). Because what else would you do in a mansion with a sinister reputation besides have a seance?
Of course, they succeed in contacting Ichabod. Whereupon Here Comes Hell lives up to its name and moves into Evil Dead or even Dead Alive territory.
Here Comes Hell begins as a more typical example of the genre with it’s over-aggressive and armed Texan. Upper-class Brits living on their inheritance. And Elizabeth who actually works for a living. It’s funny enough in that kind of BBC/PBS way but hardly seems the stuff of horror films.
But once the seance goes wrong it changes gears fast. And this is what makes Here Comes Hell work where others have failed. It fully embraces modern horror and gore. It also gives us female leads who do more than scream and faint. Rather than try to make a 1930s film in a modern era it takes a 1930s plot and brings it into the present.
Here Comes Hell also has the good sense to keep its running time short. At 76 minutes it doesn’t give its concept time to get stale. Or outstrip its obviously low budget. The first-time writer and director and mostly unknown cast all put in solid work. That does wonders to help smooth the production’s rough edges. Webber especially deserves praise as the anachronistically strong Elizabeth. She is ready to take on the forces of Hell while her upper class “betters” are falling apart.
The effects are enjoyable slimy if somewhat budget limited. But there is some impressive gore and body horror to be found. There’s even a bit of stop-motion worked into things.
Here Comes Hell is an ambitious and enjoyable debut. One that should appeal to both fans of old-time horror and fans with more modern tastes. It’s certainly worth seeing if you get the chance. You can check the film’s website for updates.