The Spooktacular Eight #7: The House On Skull Mountain (1974)

Blaxploitation isn’t my forte, but there’s a lot of horror movies in this vague “category-label”.

I like to not go for the obvious choice (when possible), and we didn’t spotlight an “old dark house movie” with the more typical murder mystery set-up of always: reading of the will of long distant relative that recently croaked in presence of his nephews, many not having ever seen the old lady or the other cousins before this very occasion.

It just happens the deceased was a voodoo priestess living in her southern estate, and her relatives that stay to hear the will are being killed off one by one with voodoo magic, with the survivors trying to figure out who is the killer before it gets to them as well.

And i guess it worked a bit too well as this was the final film for Mike Evans (Good Times, The Jeffersons, All In The Family), not his final acting role, thought.

As you could guess from the plot and the title, it’s a blackploitation horror film with a somewhat gothic theme, due to the mansion and it taking place on “Skull Mountain”, which means some real estate did Skeletor dirty, so to speak. I say “somewhat” due to voodoo being involved, but it’s magical, supernatural stuff regardless, and it looking at a different tradition makes it less trite.

And as one of the characters puts it “one doesn’t exclude the other”.

In case you disagree, there’s the costant thunder cracking outside the mansion (yes, done in the exact same fashion you expect) that sets the gothic mood, the nearly costant rain and some fog. And “tribal drumming”.

An irksome point is that i feel the characters called there to the house were made cousins and thus related way late into scripting to avoid the very notion of afroamerican and white people (as one of the cousins it’s played by Victor French) having a relationship, which it’s fuckin racist as hell, but even odder since they didn’t change some of the music during the “date” montage to fit this.

It’s iffy, to say the least, but it’s also a sign of the decade it was made, i guess.

Despite what you may think, the “blaxploitation” label it’s kinda ill fitting, as this doesn’t have gratituous gore, nudity or harsh language (it barely has blood), it’s indeed a old dark house type of horror thriller that focuses on the atmosphere, the supernatural events and magic, and it’s fairly effective, a bit on the cheesy side (as there are skull shaped door knockers) but spooky indeed.

It’s a bit slow at times since it’s not a mystery who’s actually causing the murder and how, so you wait for a twist, and after a ritual tribal dance scene that goes on a little longer than i liked (to be honest i had enough of rhytmic african drumming solos for a good 6 months)… you don’t really get it either, as the situation it’s pretty much what you thought was shaping up to be.

But you get a pretty spectacular finale, so it’s definitely more than “fine”.

I honestly don’t have much else to say or to complain about, it’s good.

Solid production values, good atmosphere, good acting, and not really exploitative, so i can conclude i’d recommend giving The House On Skull Mountain a good watch however you can.

And remember, blood and magic are thicker than water or skin pigmentation.

Seriously, it’s a good one not deserving its relative obscurity.

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