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Ursula Howells (Mumsy), Pat Heywood (Nanny), Howard Trevor (Sonny), Vanessa Howard (Girly), Michael Bryant (New Friend), Imogen Hassall (Girlfriend), Michael Ripper (Zoo Attendant)
Directed by Freddie Francis
The Short Version:This bizarre and grotesque horror film laced with a playfully sinister air is one of the most unusual British horror features. Acting as a darkly humorous fable complete with nasty nursery rhymes and predominantly implied violence, Freddie Francis turns out one of the more curious and largely ignored European oddities.
A family of aristocratic homicidal maniacs lure unsuspecting victims back to their home for child like games that prove fatal should they break the rules. One particular individual manages to survive long enough to turn the tables on this sick family causing them to turn on each other.
The family that slays together, stays together in this unusual and obscure British black comedy horror film. Freddie Francis (DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE) directs this modest, yet deliciously nasty little film about a solitary family of crazies who enjoy bringing people to their home (predominantly vagrants) and pushing them into participating in "tea and games" before killing them when they fail to obey the rules.
Fans of films about psycho families will likely draw comparisons with Jack Hill's SPIDER BABY (1964). In that film, this bizarre and quite mad group of children lorded over by the family chauffeur lure victims to their secluded mansion and kill them in violent games in addition to keeping some of their cannibalistic relatives in the basement. For Francis' movie, the crazies live in a decrepit old worlde mansion away from society save for when they get bored with each other and desire the company of "outsiders". On this one special occasion, the outsider turns the tables on his delightful tormentors giving new meaning to the words "Family Matters".
While possessing an incredibly dark comical charm, the movie never crosses over into gore territory despite its sordidly gruesome aura. The violence and also the sexual nature of the film is handled mostly offscreen. This whimsical black comedy horror movie comes off like a live action version of a children's book written by De Sade. None of the characters have real names. They're all given random nicknames such as "Soldier", "Friend in Number 5" and "New Friend". The latter is responsible for introducing his own style of "games" that destroys this tight knit clan of playful murderers.
The stunning Imogen Hassall is in this briefly
The movie failed to find an audience at the time and may find itself with the same problem today on the digital format. Definitely a cult film, the most devout British horror fans are the ones who will get the most out of this picture. Quirky and often resembling a terribly grim Grimm's Fairy Tale, it's not a movie for everybody. No doubt this will find the most favor with those with a taste for the bizarre and movies whose power lies in what is alluded to and not always shown.
This review is representative of the Scorpion Releasing DVD
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I've been a huge movie buff since childhood catching old horror and monster flicks on Shock Theater and kung fu movies at the drive-in during the late 70's and early 80's. I've had a long time fascination with, and appreciate all genres of fantastic cinema, good and bad. One fans cheese is another fans juicy steak. I like both equally and seldom find a film I truly dislike as I will find something of interest in just about anything. The bulk of the films or tv series' seen here are mostly from my childhood, or films I own in what has become an Amazing Colossal DVD collection.