House on Straw Hill (aka Trauma, Exposé) (James Kenelm Clarke, 1976)

posted in: Duane, Review | 0
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A reclusive writer struggling to piece together his second novel enlists the help of a young female secretary to assist him. He soon falls into a quagmire of lust, debauchery and murder.
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Here’s yet another film to have landed on the BBFC’s preposterous Video Nasty list, and it’s completely unjustifiable. My first time sitting down with House on Straw Hill in its previously censored form left me unimpressed. Now that I’ve gotten my trembling mitts on the lovingly restored Blu-ray from Severin Films I can say with confidence that there’s a modest revenge tale here, with some much appreciated libidinous and bloody bits thrown in for good measure.
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The plot is simple: Paul hires Linda as his secretary to aid him in the writing of his new novel. In his isolation, Paul has been suffering paranoid delusions of dark figures brandishing knives trying to break through the windows, visions of slashed wrists and a dead man in a bathtub. After Linda’s arrival things begin to move along nicely on the book, but something isn’t quite right about his mysterious new employee; she’s aloof and seemingly hostile at times. The story progresses with Paul being an arrogant shithead and Linda occasionally wandering off leaving him to his own devices (which usually includes going through her things and being a creepy bastard). All of this culminates into a crescendo of sex and violence that you’ll see coming a mile away, but will enjoy the ride nonetheless. In an effort to protect any twists and turns I have omitted details about the nature of Paul’s visions and what Linda’s agenda may be; I recommend viewing the film with an unsullied mindset.
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Paul Martin is played by Udo Kier (Mark of the Devil, Suspiria) who prances around like he’s God’s gift as usual, and despite his voice being dubbed his performance is enjoyable. Kier has always been one of those actors that gives his all no matter what he’s in, this being no exception. Few actors would have been able to pull off having a psychotic episode while some slut is riding his meat train like there’s no tomorrow as effectively as Kier manages here; one can almost see his hard-on wither inside her. The slut in question is played by British 70s pinup Fiona Richmond (Hardcore, Let’s Get Laid) who provides an abundance of the sex and sleaze in the film. The real treat however is genre stalwart Linda Hayden (The Blood on Satan’s Claw, Taste the Blood of Dracula) who does a wonderful job as Paul’s secretary-turned-lust-object. Hayden was an excellent choice for the role with her sweet innocent looks; and yet there’s something sinister about her that can’t be ignored. She has in fact been quoted as saying that House on Straw Hill is the only film she regrets making (the fact that she spends a good chunk of her time on screen masturbating, enjoying being raped, or fucking Fiona Richmond could have something to do with her compunction). To wit, the lovely Ms. Hayden definitely sleazed it the fuck up and the film surely prospered because of her efforts. The sex scenes are very beautifully shot, in particular the one between Hayden and Richmond.
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Certain aspects of House on Straw Hill reminded me of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs; namely the rape scene as well as the general feel of claustrophobic isolation prevalent throughout. The film is somewhat predictable, but most viewers won’t mind because the pacing is quick and it’s permeated with plenty of naked slut action to hold one’s interest. As for the “graphic” violence, well let’s just say it’s not exactly a splatter film. That being said, the kill scenes are effective and at times downright spiteful; Fiona Richmond’s death scene is a celebration of bloodletting as her tits get carved up with a kitchen knife as the camera leads the viewer on a voyeuristic journey across her bleeding panicked form, blood flowing down her ladybits like a beautiful crimson stream. There’s also a pretty convincing throat slash to be enjoyed.
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As a whole, House on Straw Hill is mandatory viewing based on its reputation and inclusion on the Video Nasty list alone. It’s an entertaining, well-paced film that could have benefited from a deeper plot and the inclusion of more characters.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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