• House Of Mortal Sin



    Released by: Redemption Films
    Released on: June 17th, 2015.
    Director: Pete Walker
    Cast: Anthony Sharp, Norman Eshley
    Year: 1976
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    The Movie:

    British exploitation director Pete Walker was always one of the genres more interesting characters. Technically proficient but devoid of artistic pretension he specialized in well made shockers that often engaged in a little stylish blunt force trauma in terms of "message". Sometimes conservative with a law and order streak but also with a keen eye towards exploitative thrills, Walker's films were always interesting. Which brings us to one of his blunter but startlingly effective efforts - THE HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (also known as THE CONFESSIONAL).

    Walker's middle finger to the Catholic Church opens with a troubled young woman (Susan Penhaligon) named Jenny visiting a church to see her friend who has recently joined the priesthood Father Bernard (Norman Eshley) for confession. Jenny ends up giving confession to a different priest named Father Xavier Meldrum (Anthony Sharp) however. Jenny has quite a few sins to unload - including a really big one by Church standards - an abortion. Xavier is utterly inane however and in addition to audio taping the young lady without her permission he becomes her stalker.

    As the film moves forward we are introduced to the bizarre living arrangements of father Xavier - he lives with his invalid mother and a sinister "housekeeper" called Ms. Brabazon (shades of Damien's protector in the original OMEN!) played by Walker troupe regular Sheila Keith of HOUSE OF WHIPCORD fame. As Meldrum becomes progressively more deranged in his infatuation with Jenny he turns to serial murder in the name of Christ against sinners. This is where Walker really lets his anti-catholic freak flag fly with some pretty far out killing scenarios that revolve around iconic catholic imagery. Think poisoned communion wafers and rosary beads and Father Meldrum being assisted by his creepy one-eyed housekeeper. The sequences are pretty clever frankly and much like another director highly critical of the Catholic Church - Italian maestro Lucio Fulci, Walker knows how to keep things moving briskly and with maximum shock power. Truthfully the whole thrust of the film isn't even totally anti-Catholic as a subplot involving Jenny's sister (played by Stephanie Beacham) is introduced involving Father Bernard falling for her and deciding to leave the Church in good conscience. Walker's big message is more that people are going to have sex and the Catholic Church better find a practical way to deal with it.

    By this point in his career Walker had managed to cement his arresting style so the film looks quite good. He may have been an exploitation director but he understood light and shadow and how to stage jolting horror sequences. Acting in the man's films tended to be stronger than that of many of his peer's efforts as well and HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN is no streak breaker. Everyone is good with Keith and especially Sharp as the killer priest being real standouts.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The song remains very much the same when it comes to Kino's AVC encoded 1080p transfer of HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN framed at 1.66.1. Kino specialize in good-looking naturalistic transfers who's only weakness is in the quality of the print materials. This print has minimal damage, and colors and detail are good. Black levels are solid and DNR nonexistent. This is a significant upgrade over the previous Media Blasters/Shriek Show DVD.

    Audio is a perfectly adequate LPCM Mono track which has no inherent source defects. This is a nicely detailed and rendered mono track with good balancing of music and dialog elements.

    The best extra is the feature length commentary track with Walker and genre expert Johnathan Rigby. Walker and Rigby have great chemistry and cover very well every aspect of the film. From casting to artistic intent (Walker was raised Catholic and freely admits to having an axe to grind with this film) to location shooting Walker has a great memory and knows how to tell an engaging story and stay on point too. These are the kind of commentaries worth listening to. Also included is a 10 minute featurette/interview where Walker talks on camera about the making of the film. It's a decent primer but nowhere near as informative as the audio commentary. Finally, the film's theatrical trailer is included in addition to some other films that Walker directed.

    The Final Word:

    Genuinely subversive and quite well made HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN is gleefully recommended to Walker fans and people fond of juicy subversive horror films. Walker may be working out some personal issues with religion but he does it with panache. And that will always be something worth supporting.


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    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      I just recently watched this BD myself, I think this might be my favorite of Walker's films. Such a bleak and mean-spirited film. That certain strangulation murder is a real kick in the teeth. Some pretty gnarly gore in spots as well. Nice review!
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      This is one of my fave Walkers too, Andrew. I've got this BD, and HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT, on its way to me at the moment. Looking forward to seeing them again, especially HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT, which I've only seen once before.