The Screaming Skull (1958) Poster

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8/10
Remember when people used to like movies?
salv030314 June 2002
Some of these reviews are far more inept than the film the "insightful" film lovers are critiquing. Comments about a lack of gore and such are pretty telling as to the age and tastes of those who hate this flick so passionately.

The Screaming Skull is a creepy, atmospheric tale that relies on mood rather than effects to generate chills. It won't scare the pants off anyone, but it is suitably creepy for late night viewing. It's also wonderfully fun, in the typical 50s b-movie vein. A soap opera plot infused with horror elements. Classic AIP! One of my all-time favorite "bad" movies.
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8/10
Is there a word for 'fear of finding skulls in unusual places'?
GoryDetails20 January 2000
I *love* this movie. It terrified me deliciously on late-night TV when I was 12 or so, and when I discovered it on video in recent years I found it just as enjoyable as I remembered. [I admit that I no longer have to whip back the sheets to reassure myself that there's no skull in the bed, but as a kid I enjoyed several highly dramatic bedtimes because of "The Screaming Skull"...]

And the ghost in the greenhouse (plus funky theme music) still strikes me as a standout spook clip. Over the top? Maybe - but if a horror movie can't be over the top, what can?
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7/10
I STILL love this film!
windycitylady6061420 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Where I don't expect todays audience,esp kids to find this scary or entertaining(they require more blood & gore & now nudity),this is still a great 50's horror flick that relies more on the psychological rather than on the explicit. I still remember having dreams of seeing that skull on my bedroom wall! Now I have just as more fun watching this again as I do "The House On Haunted Hill". The atmosphere & music is still very effective. And the acting is very good. Its wonderful to see william Hudson play another scheming husband only to finally get his comeuppance. The director of the film(forgot his name already) does the difficult job of both acting & directing. I'm never forget when I first saw the images of the grave site & that skull rolling across the lawn! For those who haven't seen it give it a chance! And watch some other 50's/early 60's horror flicks like "House On Haunted Hill" & "Horror Hotel" as a mini introduction of what you're in for!
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6/10
No movie that threatens the audience with death can be bad.
howlandowl17 November 1999
C'mon, people. This one's just fun all the way. The main villain is a skull who is rather unconvincingly underhand-pitched towards his enemies by an off-screen technician. Plus, free coffins if you die of fright from the movie! What's not to love?
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9/10
I don't care what others think, it gave me nightmares.
BigBubba13 February 2000
I was only twelve when I saw this movie but lord it scared the bejesus out of me, I had nightmares for weeks. I have not seen the movie since then and do not care too. It has already stunted my growth and scarred me psychologically; so, I had better not read any follow up reviews calling me BigBlubberer, BigDummy, or some such demeaning name or they may be making a belated sequel. Thank God Jamie Lee Curtis wasn't around for this movie. My young heart couldna' stood it.
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great fun scary movie
T-2720 June 2001
I agree with Shane Man, Screamig Skull may not be the best picture ever made or fine art, but it is a very good scary, chiller movie. All of the parts are taken by fine character actors. The black and white photography, setting and music give the whole thing an eerie atmosphere. The end is pretty scary too. Like I said, it may not be art, but it is the perfect thing to curl up on the couch on a Friday or Saturday night with a bowl of popcorn.
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10/10
Look, this is the last time we're going to tell you.
jayandsjosh24 November 2001
"The Screaming Skull" IS NOT A BAD MOVIE!

"Mystery Science Theater 3000" is not the ultimate judge of a film's worth. Making fun of the film is one thing, but, if they thought this movie was actually bad, they don't know very much at all about film. I'm certain, if you were able to ask them, they'd tell you that, based solely on the level of "cinema" in the film, this is either the best movie they've ever shown or one of the best. (Hey, they mentioned Renoir's "Rules of the Game," so they clearly have some knowledge of real film, unlike you cretins.)

Here's the thing: You people have absolutely zero notion of the concepts of 1) "Suspension of Disbelief" and 2) "Filmmaking." If you could wrap your mind around either of these ideas, you'd be able to tell that this movie is, at the very least, effectively made. The cinematography was top-notch, I felt, and the direction was somewhere north of fair.

(And, by the way, "suspension of disbelief" does not mean simply "buying" everything the filmmakers show you, as many people have taken that phrase to mean. It means that you accept that what you are watching is a movie and thus has certain limitations, but, more importantly, that you try you forget that it's a movie and allow yourself to be affected by the music, atmosphere, etc. Basically, in direct opposition to the ultimately judgmental, condescending stance most people take to all movies in general and older horror films in particular.)
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7/10
Decent, underrated little spook film
Bloodwank24 November 2011
On seeing the rather less than stellar rating average on IMDb you could be forgiven for thinking that The Screaming Skull would be terminally dull dreck, the sort of typical best forgotten b movie product of its time. You'd be wrong, as The Screaming Skull is neither terminally dull nor dreck, nor is it even a bad film as such. The 2.9 or so rating speaks more for raters and reviewers on this site than the film itself, their cynicism perhaps, or tastes glutted and grown expansive from slick effects, gore and action. This is a rather traditional tale, a ghost film somewhat predictable if not entirely, but fortunately its a very nicely done one. Its a story of Eric, moving into a house with his lovely second wife Jenni and hoping to salve the pain of the death of his first, just as Jenni has her own troubles to deal with. Of course the house isn't ideal since it was his first wife's home, not to mention the gardener is a simple sort but rather creepy. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to guess that things really aren't all hunky dory for them, but the fun of this one consists not in surprises but execution. It's a well handled horror of night fears, of slow questing journey down shadowed corridors, of windows open where they should not be, and of course of a sinister skull and its screams. Traditional scare tactics delivered at a measured pace, with sincere mood and only a couple of dips into what now counts as cheesy territory (the skull effect is unsurprisingly not great). The cast do well to pull the story along, working with steadfast commitment and getting good mileage out of the nicely wrought script. The writing is pretty mannered, the small cast communicate in a somewhat idealised, almost theatrical fashion, it may not communicate much in the way of grit or a common touch but it does greatly assist in creating a heightened atmosphere. Neat foggy cinematography and a score with eerie wails do a good job too, it all has a great feel. In fact its even fitfully spooky and it all builds to a fun and exciting finale. It may not be a great film and some are likely to find it old fashioned and silly, but as old school spookers go its definitely a good one.
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6/10
Forget the warning.
ChuckStraub27 March 2005
This is an underrated film that seems to get more than a fair share of movie bashing. Some of this might be due to the warning at the start of the movie. Viewers are offered a free funeral if they die of fright during the showing of the movie. That offer does raise your expectations to an unrealistic level. There is no place to go from there but down. The scenes themselves are not ghastly or bloody. It isn't supposed to be that kind of a scary movie. "The Screaming Skull" is more of a psychological thriller and mystery movie. You have to remember the time this came out. Back in the late 50s, in a dark theater this was scary stuff. Compared to today's movies it's a little slow and is overshadowed by the graphic nature of modern horror films. This movie wasn't badly done. It's just a little outdated. It's still a decent movie and will probably remain popular with the movie fans of 50s horror. I think it holds its own enough that it's still a decent horror/mystery movie but it can't live up to the warning at the beginning of the movie. Watch this one remembering when it was released and forget that warning.
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GREAT horror flick
stevenfallonnyc3 April 2002
I can't believe the low rating this great film has gotten!

I remember watching "The Screaming Skull" on the late show (when TV actually showed decent stuff) and it scared the living hell outta me. It disappeared from TV, and of course years later having found it on video, it's not gonna scare me under the covers but it's still one of the best and most clever horror films of the 50's.

The plot is good enough - the ghost of a man's first wife haunts his new wife in their super-large house. But the film has a lot of great horror elements that work in its favor - the big house, the creepy house grounds, the grave on the grounds, the path through the woods area, the "odd" person (the gardener), the howling wind, the noisy windows, the scary painting, and much more, especially the skull that keeps on showing up all over the place.

The husband is the guy who played the husband in "50-Foot Woman" and he's just as good here. All the other actors/characters are just fine (there aren't many as the whole film takes place at the house), especially Mickey the Gardener, who loved the first wife (as a friend) and still talks to her as if she was alive.

The whole film has great horror atmosphere, one of the best instances ever of such I believe. There are many genuinely creepy scenes in the film, with the topper being the final incredible sequence, especially when the husband hears the knock on the front door. The look on his face is absolutely priceless as he goes to answer the door. Even after seeing the film so many times, when that door knocks, and the husband's face shows pure fear because he probably knows what's behind it, and he slowly goes to answer it, still gives me shudders!

It's great that "The Screaming Skull" is on DVD. This film definitely deserves a lot better than the films it often gets lumped in with.
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Dead From the Neck Up!
BaronBl00d14 November 2004
OK, I could easily bash this film for its many...many flaws. Looking for scares, then steer away from The Screaming Skull. Aside from a scene where you hear knocking on a door with or by a skull, nothing in this film is even remotely chilling. The story is the biggest problem as we know what is going to happen way before it happens. No creativity here. The acting could be a lot worse though for a movie of this type. Lead actor Tony Hudson is below average, but everyone else is at least mediocre. Well, that means the other four in the cast of the entire film. Peggy Webber, busting out literally, plays a woman that was scarred seeing her parents drown as a child. Now, she moves into her new husband's estate where his wife died under questionable means. We then find out he has no money of his own and his new wife is loaded and has a history of mental hysteria. Where is this film going I wonder? Though it is short on scares, has grossly cheap special effects, and a story with virtually no "flesh," The Screaming Skull is one of those fun, bad movies to watch. A lot of other viewers were bored with all the talking, but I found the incompetence in this film quite charming for some inexplicable reason. Director Alex Nicol, also playing the "not-quite-there" Mickey, uses what few resources he has and at the very least makes a film with some unity and flashes of mediocrity at times. I have seen much, much, much worse!
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5/10
It's not that bad
leonardfranks21 June 2009
Yes, the acting in this isn't that great. Yes, the director plays one of the characters, which is pretty much always a bad sign for a horror movie (Glen or Glenda, Eegah, Incredibly Strange Creatures, etc.). Yes, the entire storyline is fantastically predictable and has been done a thousand times. And yeah, the special effects are really, really terrible. And no, it did not scare me enough that I was able to take advantage of their free funeral offer (Does that still hold for DVD's?) But other than that, it really wasn't that bad. So, a rich woman who was formerly in a sanatorium moves into her new husband's old home. His old wife had died there, in a way that the pastor takes every care to explain is suspicious. Then she starts seeing creepy things while her husband is away all the time. I guess there aren't really spoilers here because I'm not TECHNICALLY telling you anything, but anyone who's watched enough of these movies should know the rest by heart. But really, except for a few moments and one really annoying gardener, this manages to keep up a pretty good atmosphere. I thought that it wasn't bad for what it was. Definitely not 2.7
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8/10
An enjoyably creaky 50's horror potboiler
Woodyanders6 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Charming widower Eric (solid John Hudson) and his sweet, pretty new wife Jenni (appealingly played by Peggy Webber) move into the gorgeous palatial mansion of Eric's late wife. Pretty soon Peggy starts to see an unsettling disembodied skull all over the place. Is she going crazy? Or is the place really haunted? Director Alex Nicol, working from an endearingly hokey script by John Kneubuhl, keeps the pace stately, but steady throughout, creates a suitably spooky atmosphere, elicits acceptable acting from a game cast, and stages the rousing conclusion with considerable aplomb. Floyd Crosby's moody black and white cinematography makes expert use of crazily tilted Dutch camera angles and gracefully gradual tracking shots. Ernest Gold's effectively eerie score likewise hits the spot. Nice supporting performances by Nicol as weird, slow, scruffy gardener Mickey and Russ Conway as friendly Reverend Edward Snow. Moreover, since the movie is a trim 62 minutes long it's never dull and gets right down to brass tacks with a refreshing dearth of pretense. Good, harmless Grade B fright feature fun.
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This movie scared my sister&I to death when we were young
dino4229 August 2004
My sister & I had searched for this movie to see it again after we had nightmares for weeks after seeing this movie some 35+ years ago. I finally founding looking in a database in a video store computer and ordered it. You have to lighten up your screen some, to see all that goes on, and parts of it are too funny now---but it's not a bad premise for a scary story, and images like the skull in the bridal gown I will never forget. I now have to find the 1973 version of this film. I'm curious also to see the double feature---the DVD has a schlocky 70's vampire movie as the 2nd feature. So seeing it this summer after waiting over 30 years for it? It wasn't that bad.
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5/10
Free burial services for everyone!!!
Coventry30 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I got hooked on this film before it even properly started! And only because it's starts with a spoken warning that you're about to view the …ultimate in terror! It reminded me a little of the Universal Monster movies from the 30's. You know, those classic titles like Frankenstein and Dracula in which Edward van Sloan comes peeking from behind the curtain to warn us that the following film – and I quote – "may frighten you…it may even shock you". The Screaming Skulls has this too, only much more extravagant. The producers claim to give away free burial services (!) because it's very well possible that you'll DIE of fright! The intro even ends with the image of an open coffin, showing the note "reserved for you". That's priceless! But, say what you want about this film, it does attempt to build up a horrifying atmosphere and it often succeeds in doing so. With ominous sound effects, dark photography and neat set pieces, director Alex Nicol brings a modest tale of terror that is definitely worth checking out. The plot centers on the respectable widower Eric Whitlock who remarries the wealthy Jenny. The live in Eric's old mansion where Jenny is soon after terrorized by eerie noises and she constantly encounters human skulls around the house. Is it the spirit of Eric deceased wife that came back from the dead? Is there someone after her fortune? Or did the mentally unstable gardener Mickey finally went berserk? I won't spoil it for you, because the DVD I own did, and that really spoiled the fun for me. The Screaming Skull is a very cheap production; so don't expect brilliant shock effects or lots of bloody make up. It does, however, have some tension and a decent screenplay. Yes, it's full of flaws but what's the point in naming them all, as I'm sure you won't even consider watching this film in case you don't have a soft spot for cheap 50's ghost stories? Fact is that it's overall better than commonly believed and worth 70 minutes of your time.
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7/10
Surprisingly Effective
tomross7 April 2002
I found this ultra-low-budget film to be surprisingly effective. The black and whilte photography and stark compositions reminded me somewhat of early Mario Bava films, and the dream-like slowly evolving scenes reminiscent of some of Dario Argento's work. The music score (and sound effects) were well done, while the frequently creaky acting lent itself nicely to the creepy off-kilter atmosphere. Alternately arty, goofy, sometimes scary and sometimes slow. I enjoyed it.
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7/10
A Scary Afternoon!
Paul2553785 April 2016
I saw this in the mid 60's as it was shown as the afternoon movie on a local TV station. Every afternoon this station showed an old movie starting at 4:00 PM. Just in time for school kids to get home. As an 8 year old, I found this movie terrifying. My childhood friend, his younger sister and me watched most of it peeking from behind a couch. Great memories! I will need to purchase the DVD and now watch as an adult to see if it is still that frightening! I remember the anticipation of what was going to happen next to scare the bejesus out of us! Not an academy award winner, but fun none the less. I can imagine a young couple on a 1st date back in 1958 clinging to each other in a dark movie theater!
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6/10
A good, old fashioned shocker.
Hey_Sweden27 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"The Screaming Skull" is judged too harshly in some reviews in this viewers' opinion. The script (written by producer John Kneubuhl) is definitely on the routine side, but debuting director / co-star Alex Nicol and company make this pretty atmospheric, and do manage to create some genuine suspense, especially in the middle portion. It's true that it's not too hard to guess where it's going, but the movie is still basically entertaining, with decent acting in the key roles. And there are only five principal cast members, so this is a pretty intimate story. The action basically is confined to two locations: inside and outside a family estate.

Pretty lady Peggy Webber plays Jenni, a young newlywed with a tragic back story: she witnessed the deaths of her parents many years ago, and she's spent some time in a mental institution. Soon after she arrives at her husband Eric's (John Hudson) family home, she believes she's seeing supernatural manifestations - specifically, a diabolical, mysterious human skull, and eerie wailing akin to that of the call of a peacock - and comes to worry that she's losing her mind. Meanwhile, the mentally impaired gardener Mickey (played by Mr. Nicol) is devoted to the memory of Eric's first wife Marian, whose portrait can be seen inside the home.

Also co-starring Russ Conway as the Reverend Snow and Tony Johnson as his wife, "The Screaming Skull" is fairly effective. It might sometimes be more amusing than scary, but overall it's a decent black & white horror film in the classic tradition. Nicol does his best at generating an eerie mood; other than the suspense sequences around the midway point, the big finale is another highlight worth mentioning. The music by Ernest Gold is good, as is the b & w cinematography by Floyd Crosby, who went on to do great work on the Roger Corman- directed Edgar Allan Poe films of the 1960s.

Even if the individual viewer is not won over by this one, at least they only have to stick it out for a mere 68 minutes.

Six out of 10.
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6/10
guaranteed preburial services???
manicgecko19 June 2006
OK now there is a hook. I had to watch the rest of the movie to see what qualified as life threatening horror in the 50's. This movie does deliver compared to the typical 1950's fare. What some people complained of being slow I brought down to building atmosphere. The music, lighting, shadows, all contributed to the mood. Not that this was a fast paced movie by any sense, but I wasn't clawing my eyes out waiting for something to happen. That and the feeling that I have seen this movie before kept me watching for the entire hour.

This movie is far from a masterpiece however. It is filled with tons of the little nuances that made Cro and Servo famous. We had disappearing peafowl, we had Eric trying desperately to get his keys out of the car, and we had adorable little Mickey ripped off and copied into every ex-wife ghost movie ever made. We had wonderful quotes- most delivered by John Hudson himself "you need some one. We need someone out side the confusions of our love for each other". I think I am going to be sick.

This isn't the worst movie you will ever see, but there is no surprise that is wasn't up for a major award in any category. But it does have a strangely fitting last words from everybody's favorite gardener " They Gone - Rest"
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6/10
Could Have Actually Worked
Hitchcoc27 February 2006
This movie is typical of the films that were around when I was a kid. We actually went to them in movie theaters or drive ins and enjoyed them. We weren't jaded by the "more special effects" mentality that exists now. I love that some guy with a few buck would at least attempt a movie like this. I never saw the MST3 group do this, but it doesn't surprise me.

Now the plot is OK. It's a classic ghost story. Drag the new wife (who has some serious issues of her own) to the house of the first wife. Throw in a mentally handicapped gardener, and a lot of secrets, and you're set to go. Where it falls apart concerns what is real and what isn't. Are we seeing the psychological destruction of the man or do these ghosts really exist? How put together are these characters?

The skull, of course, is the central image. There are some really bad images. When the skull is rolled at the young woman, it looks like a bowling ball, bumping across the carpet.

Then there are all those late at night scenes where the bride must come out of her room, walk along the balcony, wait to go down and see what is going on. And, where is that husband all the time.?

The ending is pretty good. There should have been more of that all along instead of a plastic skull being used for horror effects. The acting is pretty stiff, but all these B horror films had pretty poor acting. I'd still recommend it.
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8/10
Not Bad
aesgaard4129 March 2001
I'm a nut for a really good ghost story, and this one isn't that bad in setting up it's tale and establishing atmosphere. The ghost sequences look fairly chilling, and the plot is interesting, but it loses a little bit in direction, execution and timing. Made today with the right effects, it could be very scary but the ending needs more of a kick to grab its watchers.
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6/10
An Enjoyable Horror Film
Horror729010 July 2006
I wouldn't say I disliked The Screaming Skull, but I neither would I say I loved it. The version I watched was pretty poor quality, so bits of pieces of conversations were lost to me, but even so I found the movie highly enjoyable. Technical issues aside, the story was strange, if not overdone at this point. I feel the actors played the parts well, maybe a little bland, but it got the job done. Part of the story played out as a mystery, and the other part has a supernatural tinge to it that takes over by the end. As most movies of this era, it has a bleak ending that comes on abruptly and in an odd point, leaving questions unanswered.

All in all it was an enjoyable film that most fans of older horror will appreciate.
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3/10
"She cries, she cries in the night."
classicsoncall23 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"The Screaming Skull" opens with a warning and an offer for free burial services if you should die watching it - Now there's a hook! The story itself has a fairly interesting premise for a horror flick: scheming husband marries a wealthy woman with a history of mental illness, then attempts to convince her that she's going insane with shrill noises, mysterious knocking and skulls that turn up at inopportune times. Add to the formula a sufficiently creepy gardener who still cherishes the memory of the man's first wife who he was devoted to. Maybe it's just that the 1950's didn't have the technology to pull off some of the scare scenes needed to juice up this movie, the techniques used here seem contrived and mundane. But then again, when I first saw "House on Haunted Hill" as a nine year old, it gave me the heebie jeebies in the same way I'm sure this film did for young viewers of the same era.

Don't get me wrong, the film is not terrible, it just seems to get tedious at times. But there's some great atmospheric tension in the generally huge but unfurnished Whitlock home, and the gardens and pool are a nice touch. For me the best played out scene involves Eric Whitlock (John Hudson) going maniacal in the pond attempting to retrieve the hidden skull, he just wades right in clothes and all, in neat contrast to the mentally challenged gardener (director Alex Nicol in a dual role). It makes you wonder who the real dimwit was.

In it's own good way, perhaps the most shocking thing about the film: how about that neat roadster the Whitlock's make their first appearance in - gull wing doors in 1958! That at least made me jump out of my seat!
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7/10
The ghostly skull
chris_gaskin1239 December 2005
The Screaming Skull is a rather creepy little movie from American International.

A newly married couple move to the husband's home where he lived with his late first wife. It is not long before strange and eerie things start happening. These include doors and windows slamming open and shut caused by the wind and a skull that starts haunting the wife. Then there is the rather odd gardener, Mickey who seems to know what happened to the first wife, but hides it. The husband tries to make his wife think she is going mad, but at the end the skull turns on him...

The Screaming Skull is accompanied by a rather eerie music score and there is also a thunderstorm.

Only five people star in this movie and I've never heard of any of them.

Check this out and have a good scare with The Screaming Skull.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
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2/10
You'll be snoring instead of screaming!
preppy-31 November 2004
A man brings his new wife to his home where his former wife died of an "accident". His new wife has just been released from an institution and is also VERY rich! All of the sudden she starts hearing noises and seeing skulls all over the place. Is she going crazy again or is the first wife coming back from the dead?

You've probably guessed the ending so I won't spell it out. I saw this many times on Saturday afternoon TV as a kid. Back then, I liked it but I WAS young. Seeing it now I realize how bad it is. It's horribly acted, badly written, very dull (even at an hour) and has a huge cast of FIVE people (one being the director)! Still it does have some good things about it.

The music is kinda creepy and the setting itself with the huge empty house and pond nearby is nicely atmospheric. There also are a few scary moments (I jumped a little when she saw the first skull) and a somewhat effective ending. All in all it's definitely NOT a good movie...but not a total disaster either. It does have a small cult following. I give it a 2.

Also try to avoid the Elite DVD Drive-in edition of it (it's paired with "Attack of the Giant Leeches"). It's in TERRIBLE shape with jumps and scratches all over. It didn't even look this bad on TV!
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