Monday, November 11, 2019

Kathryn Leigh Scott goes nuts in the Hammer House of Horror

Visitor from the Grave (11/22/80)

After spending the past few years immersed in daily Dark Shadows, I have become interested in seeing our well known actors outside of their DS roles. I have never seen Kathryn Leigh Scott outside of Dark Shadows since watching the soap opera, but with the many appearances she has made in film and on TV, it's likely I saw her before I knew who she was. The woman is a dynamo who continues to act to this day! I have also never seen the Hammer House of Horror series, a British TV series from 1980, which I trust will carry on the Hammer Horror tradition of providing copious amounts of red gore along with a bevy of beauties.

KLS plays Penny, an American woman who is rudely awoken one night by a man who breaks into her home demanding to know where Harry is, because he owes him. She grabs him and tries to get him to leave, which causes him to notice her revealing nightie, prompting him to force himself on her. She responds by grabbing a handy shotgun nearby and shoots him in the face, leaving a bloody hole where his eye used to be.

Harry returns the next morning to find blood smeared and dripped on the porch, door frame and throughout the house. Penny is curled up on the bed, hysterically gasping that a man tried to rape her, and she thinks she might have killed him. He follows a trail of blood into the woods with Penny in tow, and finds the corpse, which he turns over to reveal the ruined face of Charles Willoughby.

The two return home to plan how to deal with the mess. Penny requests pills, which Harry keeps locked in a cupboard in his armoire. She wants to call the police and say it was self defense, but Harry reminds her that in the UK, private citizens are not allowed to have guns without a license. She notes that the gun was his and he left it for her. He says they'd probably put her away in a hospital for the criminally insane. The two set about cleaning up the murder, with Penny scrubbing blood and burning evidence, while Harry buries Charles in the woods and then drives his car into the lake nearby.

Back at home, Harry tells her they'll be okay if they keep their heads, and Penny says she couldn't stand it if they put her away again. He tells her he'll look after her and make sure she stays well. She asks who Charles was and Harry tells her he was a gambler he owed a debt, reassuring her that there won't be any record of it. When he reminds her of her appointment at the bank, she becomes anxious, but he tells her she needs to keep the appointment and act as she normally would.

At night, the two are snuggled in bed, when a shadow falls across their bed, waking Penny. She looks out the window and sees Charles' car parked outside, and turns to see him in the house with his bloodied face. She wakes Harry, who looks out the window and does not see a car.

Penny is at the lake the next morning when a police cruiser drives up. The officer gets out and calls to her from the road, but she does not respond. Harry intercepts and reassures her that the officer doesn't suspect anything and she should act normally, which she seems to have trouble doing. They approach the officer who confirms their identities, and tells Harry he'd like to speak to him. He invites him to the cottage to do so.

The officer grills Harry on when he last saw Charles Willoughby. Penny asks what Harry is supposed to have done and the officer dismisses her, which unnerves her, so she pours herself a drink. Harry explains that she hasn't been well, and that they are staying at the cottage so she can have peace and quiet while she convalesces. The officer tells him that Charles said he was coming to see him a few nights ago to sort him out, and has now gone missing. Harry tells him he was away on business, and that Penny was at the cottage alone. The officer asks where Harry was, but he declines to answer. Harry asks Penny to confirm for the officer if she saw anyone while he was away and she denies seeing anyone. As they walk the officer outside, he instructs them to let the police know if they plan on going anywhere. Harry reiterates that they are staying because Penny needs peace and quiet.

Back in the house, Penny is anxious, believing that the police know, and continues to express her fears about being institutionalized again. Harry tells her it won't happen if she does what he tells her, and says that she can't buy her way out of this spot of trouble. He tells her they won't panic and will act as though nothing has happened. She proceeds to panic, and he tells her she will be going to Margaret's party with him that night.

At the party, Margaret is concerned that Penny is sad and razzes Harry, saying she thinks he sold his soul to the Devil, to explain how someone so ugly and lacking in charm could be with a beautiful girl like Penny. He tells her that if she really believes that, he might decide to hex her. When Harry goes off to get a drink, Margaret tells Penny she can tell she's in trouble, and asks if it's because of Harry. She says it's not, and they go off together to talk.

Harry is busy noshing and watching the women from afar as Margaret gives Penny a tarot reading. She draws the Tower card, saying it represents her, and indicates calamity. She then draws the High Priestess to represent people around her, telling her it indicates wisdom and understanding. Harry approaches as she pulls the Death card to represent Penny's inner emotions, saying she was right. Harry interrupts, asking if she's trying to scare Penny, and leads her away, declining to see the final card in the reading.

Penny asks for another drink, and when a waiter comes to offer her one, she sees that it's Charles Willoughby, and begins to loudly freak out, as the waiter makes a quick exit. Harry picks her up and carries her out of the room screaming, while Margaret shows the attendees that the last card in Penny's reading was the Devil.

Penny awakens to the sound of Harry firing his unlicensed rifle at the sky repeatedly. She seems dazed, and wrings her hands. Harry joins her at breakfast, saying he's been trying to get some pigeons for a pie. She asks Harry if she's going out of her mind, insisting that she saw Charles Willoughby, and wondering how he could have gotten out of the grave. He tells her he couldn't have, and she says she doesn't want to be haunted by him for the rest of her life. She thinks that Margaret will know what to do, and asks him to take her to see Margaret.

Margaret welcomes them and sends Harry off to make them coffee while asking Penny about what's troubling her. She tells her she's being haunted by someone who died violently in an accident. Margaret offers to hold a séance to help her solve her problem and invites her back the next night for it.

Harry scoffs at the idea of a séance as he and Penny walk through town. He makes the mistake of telling her she's crazy and has to apologize. He goes off to the cleaners to pick up a pair of pants and tells her to look around town. She goes into an antique shop and looks out the window to see a bloody faced Charlie staring back at her from a car outside. She runs out screaming her head off for Harry.

She's inconsolable as he drives her home, convinced that he's not dead. He grabs a shovel and runs off to where he buried Charles and begins digging. He takes her to where he has unearthed the corpse so she can see the maggots crawling out of his destroyed, decaying eyeball.

At Margaret's, Harry declines to sit in on the séance, and Margaret instructs him to go the other room and not interrupt. She asks Penny the name of the dead man and asks her to concentrate as she calls him. A man's voice responds and when Margaret asks what he wants, he says he wants revenge. Margaret tells him to leave Penny alone and he begins laughing, causing Penny to scream and Margaret to pass out. After coming to, she tells Harry that the spirit is evil and Penny is in danger. Penny asks her to help, but she says she's not strong enough, and refers her to a Swami, who failed to open an English center due to lack of funds. Penny says she'll pay whatever it costs for him to help her.

At the cottage, Harry cleans his rifle and Penny is drinking booze. She goes upstairs and notices that the locked cupboard that houses her pills, which she has repeatedly said she must not mix with alcohol, has been left open. She is about to open the bottle of pills when she is interrupted by the phone ringing. It is Margaret, calling to inform them that she's located the Swami in India, but that he doesn't want to come. She asks Harry to tell Margaret that she'll give him the 150,000 pounds he needs for his English center.

Penny is having difficulty buttoning her blouse and putting on lipstick. The pill cupboard is locked so she downs a drink instead. She tells Harry she's got to have a pill. He gives her the keys to the cupboard and tells her to have just one. She gets the pill bottle and dumps out a handful and takes them all. She removes a case of shotgun shells from the cupboard and stares at them as Harry calls her from downstairs to say that they're there.

If you've read this far, then you probably want to know what happens at the end, but if you don't, then this would be a good place to stop reading to avoid spoilers. 

The Swami instructs Margaret and Penny to be seated at the table and tells Harry to sit somewhere else in the room. Harry puts on sitar music at his request and seats himself on the couch. The Swami tells Penny to concentrate on him. He asks the name of the person troubling her and how he died, asking if she killed him. She admits she did. The ladies' heads are spinning as the Swami calls for Charles Willoughby. Charles' bloody face appears behind the Swami's head and he says he will be revenged, causing Penny to scream hysterically and run upstairs.

She grabs shotgun shells as she begins hallucinating. Harry runs upstairs and breaks into the room as a shotgun blast is heard, and finds Penny on the floor with a bloody neck wound.   

Police and ambulance depart the house as Harry and Margaret go back inside. He says they're gone and he and Margaret embrace and kiss as the Swami, who turns out to be the police officer, and bloody faced Charles cheer and laugh. Margaret asks where the money is, and Charles passes out champagne while Harry dumps a bag of money out onto the table. Harry says she was a born loser, while the fake Swami regrets that she blew her head off. Charles expresses relief that he won't have to lie in the woods with all that makeup anymore, while Margaret says she liked Penny.

Lightning suddenly crashes, the power goes out, and the window breaks open as the marauding party sees Penny's ghost enter and claim she will be revenged. She points her finger at the money, and it goes up in flames. She repeats she will be revenged and smiles.


I like the way this episode began, with the shadow of a man lurking outside Penny's window and an anxiety inducing knock on the door in the middle of the night. It's a truly frightening scenario for any solitary dweller.

While this was a fairly predictable episode, it was entertaining nonetheless. I enjoyed how Penny immediately returned to exact her revenge, becoming the true visitor from the grave referred to in the title, but am torn on whether they should have left it to our imaginations how she would take that revenge on the horrible conspirators. I would have expected Hammer to have her unleash carnage in all its gory glory, but maybe they ran out of blood...or time. Incidentally, it's odd that Penny should come back to seek revenge in her peekaboo nightie when that's not what she died in, but that's Hammer for you.

I have to believe it was intentional that many of the elements that we know and love from Dark Shadows were included, with the tarot reading, the séance, KLS's trademark screams, and a vengeful ghost. It certainly couldn't be mere coincidence that she ended up with a bloody neck wound, could it? It was delightful to see Kathryn Leigh Scott ten years after the conclusion of DS, just as lovely and vivacious as ever, and I look forward to seeing her in other appearances. 

This was a pleasant foray into the Hammer House of Horror, and I look forward to seeing more episodes in this series.

1 comment:

John V said...

Thanks for reviewing this, Christine! I'm a KLS fan as well, but I haven't seen this Hammer House of Horror episode yet! I will definitely check it out.