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House on Straw Hill (1976)


Sheesh. This film's known as many things...




Synopsis

A paranoid writer is unable to get started on his second novel. He hires a secretary and then his troubles really begin.

Review

So I went into this one blind, so to speak, seeing it based on the description alone, and that it was listed in the horror section. Hm.

The film begins with writer Paul Martin, struggling with his second novel. He's hidden away in a large house in the English countryside with a woman - Suzanne - who he promptly sends away, and demands a secretary from his publishing house so that he can "pace the room". A few days later, Linda arrives and they begin the writing process. And that's where the film gets...weird.

After arriving at the house, Linda does a little work with Paul, and then goes for a walk in an adjacent field, where in the corn she decides to...pleasure herself...(and at this point I'm wondering what I'm watching). She is caught by two local lads (who inexplicably have a shotgun), and they rape her. It all started going I Spit on Your Grave on me. She gets the gun away from them (off camera) and then shoots them both, in glorious goriness. As the film continues the body count rises - scene after scene slipping into soft core porn - following graphic scenes of violence. By the end of the film I had no idea what I had just watched.

Released in 1976, Exposé was immediately labelled a video nasty (Video nasty is a colloquial term in the United Kingdom to refer to a number of films distributed on video cassette that were criticised for their violent content by the press, social commentators and various religious organisations. ~ Wikipedia), the only British film to be listed at the time. And having seen it, that is no surprise. It's low budget fare, but very, very violent.




Udo Kier (Iron Sky) stars as Paul Martin - he has, of course, his usual charismatic charms, however he has been over dubbed with a British accent, which is a shame. Linda Hayden (The Boys from Brazil) steals scenes as Linda - the psychotic secretary. The only other real character (aside from the house keeper who is seen two or three times before her demise) is Martin's girlfriend, Suzanne, played by Fiona Richmond (Hardcore) whose lack of acting experience is noticeable, especially when on screen with Kier.

While the film is entertaining to watch, it suffers badly from a near nonsensical plot and a very little in the way of scares.

At the beginning of the film Suzanne comes across as a prostitute. In fact, it's so badly explained, it wasn't until I was researching the film afterward that I discovered she was his girlfriend. Her actions within the film are most definitely contrary to that of a partner - to the point of her having sexual relations with Linda. Linda's motivations (once revealed in the plot twist) are reasonable, but in order to titillate the audience is given many sex scenes, which make no sense when watching the film, and even less once the twist is revealed.

I'll lay the issues at the feet of writer/director James Kenelm Clarke who while trying to create a thriller, stumbles badly, with different themes and genres slipping in from all sides. He's gone on to do little else behind the camera, except notably in the music department.

I have no idea if I watched a cut version, but I think not. As I say, it's entertaining to watch, if a little muddled, there's enough gore to sate that desire. The rape scene is extremely uncomfortable - graphic, and long. It's also completely unnecessary to the plot, which leaves a bad taste - especially when the victim quickly goes on to be overly sexualized during the rest of the run time.




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