House of Mortal Sin (1976) | Pete Walker’s confessional re-opens on Blu-ray
Hot on the bloodied heels of the sleazy 1974 horror House of Whipcord and the cannibal shocker Frightmare, director Pete Walker and screenwriter David McGillivray stepped inside a suburban London Catholic rectory for their next Britsploitation effort.
The result was House of Mortal Sin (aka The Confessional in the US), a deliciously dark slasher contrived by Walker to make the British censor nervous and the critics chatter, while giving horror fans the sensation they craved. 40 years on, it’s become another enduring classic of 1970s British horror cinema.
Tortured by desires his vows forbid… master of a house of mortal sin!
When Jenny (Susan Penhaligon) discovers her confession has been taped by local priest Father Meldrum (Anthony Sharp), her boyfriend Terry confronts the pompous cleric, but ends up in hospital suffering serious life-threatening injuries.
Meldrum, who secretly lusts after Jenny, then tries to blackmail the young woman, and begins ‘punishing’ anyone who gets in his way. Can Jenny convince confused young priest Father Cutler (Norman Eshley) and her sister Vanessa (Stephanie Beacham) of Meldrum’s transgressions and secret desires before its too late?
Drawn from Walker’s own experiences, McGillivray’s screenplay takes umbrage against corrupt authority figures and hypocrisy within the Catholic Church through the film’s central character – the murderous Father Meldrum, who twists his beliefs to suit his own demented ends.
In his only starring role in a feature, 60-year-old Anthony Sharp gives the role a chilling edge and keeps it wonderfully underplayed – even when his cassock-wearing assassin goes on the attack turning traditional instruments of salvation (incense burner, rosary beads, poisoned communion wafer) into tools for blackmail and murder.
But it’s Sheila Keith as the sinister housekeeper, Miss Brabazon, who steals the show for me. Hers is a truly terrifying creation – a one-eyed, stone-face schizoid, who maltreats poor Hilda Barry’s bed-ridden OAP on one hand, while also being touching in her unrequited love for Meldrum on the other.
The film’s closing scene might, which suggests Father Meldrum will continue with his deadly ministry long after the credits roll, is a real kicker (thanks Pete).
House of Mortal Sin is released by OEG Classic Movies in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD
Posted on July 7, 2015, in British Film, Cult classic, Exploitation, Horror, Must See, Must See and tagged Anthony Sharp, Catholic Church, House of Mortal Sin, Norman Eshley, Pete Walker, Religious hipocrisy, Sexual frustration, Sheila Keith, Stephanie Beacham, Susan Penhaligon. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.