I’ll start off by saying I’m not a horror fan, it’s generally a genre I avoid entirely, but there’s something I find quite appealing about the “old skool” horror films; those that rely on music and lighting to create tension, and where the blood is mostly off camera, instead of easily predictable jump scares and over the top gore. I was looking forward to giving this one a watch, encouraged further by the fact it stars the late great Christopher Lee.
The film begins with five strangers boarding a train carriage together. One of them, the mysterious Dr Shreck (Peter Cushing) introduces the gentlemen to his tarot cards and invites them to find out their fates. Inevitably their fates are not good, and what follows is a series of flash forwards in which we see whether the cards told the truth.
Each person gets their story told in turn, returning back to the carriage between each one. In some ways I really liked this structure, and it certainly helped the plot to breeze along at a highly watchable pace. Each story is told in about 15 minutes, with the brief train interludes interspersed throughout. By the third story, I did find this narrative structure a bit repetitive. As soon as you realise each man’s fate, whilst vastly different, is probably heading the same way, then it does grow a little tiresome, but the payoff does make it worthwhile. Much of the film plays out like a book, with a chapter for each individual story, and I liked that sense of it being a series of short horror stories pieced together with one very simple narrative.
However, that being said, this film has pretty much everything you’d want out of a classic horror film, including werewolves, voodoo, vampires, disembodied hands, and my personal favourite, killer plants! Indeed parts of this film were legitimately hilarious; whether that was the intention of the film or not, I found it very welcome.
Some of the cast suffer with being a little one-dimensional, but Christopher Lee is of course great, and I enjoyed Donald Sutherland’s story also.
Overall this was a pretty fun film to watch, although perhaps not one I would want to watch over and over again. It might not be for modern horror fans, but it’s a charming, entertaining watch, and a must-see for classic horror fans.
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