Follow TV Tropes


Film / Dr. Terror's House of Horrors

Go To

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors is a 1965 British horror Anthology Film from Amicus Productions, directed by veteran horror director Freddie Francis, written by Milton Subotsky, and starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, and Donald Sutherland.

Five strangers board a train and are joined by a mysterious fortune teller who offers to read their Tarot cards. Five separate stories unfold: An architect returns to his ancestral home to find a werewolf out for revenge; a doctor suspects his new wife is a vampire; an intelligent vine takes over a house; a jazz musician plagiarizes music from a voodoo ceremony; a pompous art critic is pursued by a disembodied hand.

Not to be confused with Dr. Terror's Gallery of Horrors, another low-budget horror anthology film released two years later and hosted by John Carradine.

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors contains examples of:

  • Afterlife Express: At the end of the film, the five passengers alight from the train to find themselves on a deserted platform. A floating newspaper informs them that they died in a train accident, and Dr. Schreck reveals himself as Death.
  • Angel Unaware: At the end of the film, Dr. Schreck is revealed to be The Grim Reaper.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Played With. Franklyn Marsh vehemently dismisses Schreck's claims and stories as ridiculous nonsense, but is won over when Schreck tells him that he will be ceaselessly pursued by the disembodied hand of artist Eric Landor. This is justified by the implication Schreck got details of Marsh's life correct, such as his feud with the artist and that the other passengers also note correct specifics in their fortunes.
  • Artistic License – Geography: In the "Voodoo" segment, the only aspects of the West Indies that are shown are calypso music and Hollywood Voodoo.
  • Car Fu: In the "Disembodied Hand" segment, Marsh takes revenge on Landor for his humiliation by running him over with his car. This act comes back to haunt Marsh in more ways than one.
  • Career-Ending Injury: In the "Disembodied Hand" segment, Eric Landor is run over by critic Franklyn Marsh. His injuries result in the amputation of his right hand, destroying his career as an artist. falling into a deep despair, Landor is eventually Driven to Suicide. The segment ends with the hand causing Marsh to crash his car. He survives...but is blinded, ruining his career as an art critic.
  • The Cat Came Back: In the "Disembodied Hand" segment, Franklyn Marsh makes multiple attempts to dispose of the hand; including throwing it into a fire, and sealing it in a box and tossing the box into a river. No matter what he does, the hand returns and tries to kill him.
  • Caustic Critic: Franklyn Marsh is a pompous and patronising art critic whose rivalry with artist Eric Landor sets in motion a deadly chain of events.
  • Curse: In the "Voodoo" segment, Biff Bailey is cursed when he writes down the sacred music he hears being played during a voodoo ceremony. The curse strikes when he attempts to use the music for personal profit.
  • Cut Phone Lines: The Man-Eating Plant snaps the phone line to the cottage when Hopkins tries to phone for help in the "Creeping Vine" segment.
  • Daywalking Vampire: In the "Vampire" segment, vampires can move freely about during the day, and appear no different to ordinary humans.
  • Dead All Along: The five passengers are given premonitions of their gruesome deaths, only to find in the end that they've already died in a train wreck.
  • Driven to Suicide: After losing his arm (and therefore his career) in "Disembodied Hand", artist Eric Landor falls into deep despair and blows his brains out.
  • Evil Hand: In the "Disembodied Hand" segment, artist Eric Landor has his amputated after he was run over by critic Franklyn Marsh. After Landor commits suicide, his hand returns to exact revenge on Marsh.
  • Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death
  • The Grim Reaper: At the end of the film, Dr. Schreck is revealed to be Grim Reaper, and that the passengers have been travelling on the Afterlife Express.
  • Helping Hands: In the "Disembodied Hand" segment, Franklyn Marsh runs over artist Eric Landor and causes his hand to be amputated. Landor's amputated hand comes after Marsh seeking vengeance.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: In the "Voodoo" segment, Biff Bailey is cursed when he steals sacred music from a voodoo ceremony and attempts to use it for his own gain.
  • Improvised Cross: When Dr. Blake throws his arms up to shield his face from the bat, they form the sign of the cross and drive the vampire away the "Vampire" segment.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: In "Werewolf", Dawson shoots the werewolf with no effect. He wonders what happened, explaining that he had six Silver Bullets made from a melted down crucifix, which should have been guaranteed to kill it. Deirdre Biddulph opens her hand and asks him if he means these bullets.
  • Justified Title: And you can see them straining to justify it with a contrived conversation about the meaning of Dr. Schreck's name and him saying of his tarot deck in passing that "I call it my house of horrors". Sure you do...
  • Kill It with Fire: Fire turns out to be the one thing the Man-Eating Plant in "Creeping Vine" is afraid of. The final shot, of the vine batting out the flames left behind by the humans, leaves open the question of whether the plant is truly defeated.
  • Man-Eating Plant: There is little or no explanation for the vicious vine; it is simply noticed growing around an isolated house. Soon, it is snipping phone lines, strangling a hapless victim, and trapping the survivors in the house – until they learn that the wicked weed is afraid of fire, enabling them to escape. The final shot, of the vine batting out the flames left behind by the humans, leaves open the question of whether the plant is truly defeated.
  • Mistaken Nationality: When Biff first meets calypso singer Sammy Coin in a club in the Caribbean, he assumes that he is West Indian. It turns out that Sammy is actually a Londoner.
  • Never Trust a Title: Anyone expecting an actual 'House of Horrors' will be disappointed. Supposedly, the house of horrors refers to Dr. Schreck's Tarot deck, which constructs horrifying futures for people, but this is only mentioned briefly in passing. Even the name Dr. Terror is barely justified, with a brief conversation explaining that Dr. Schreck's name would translate into English as Dr. Terror. Nobody ever addresses him as anything other than Dr. Schreck.
  • Recursive Canon: Walking home from the jazz club, Biff passes a poster advertising Doctor Terror's House of Horrors.
  • Revealing Injury: In the "Vampire" segment, Dr. Blake shoots the bat that appears at the clinic trying to drain blood from the boy. Later, Nicole Caroll shows up at home with a badly injured arm, which convinces her husband that she is the vampire.
  • Scary Black Man: The male members of the voodoo cult who silently surround Biff without his noticing in "Voodoo". In particular, the hulking priest of Damballah who appears without explanation in Biff's home in London to take revenge and retrieve the stolen music.
  • Silver Bullet: In "Werewolf", Dawson melts down a silver crucifix (which had itself had been made from the silver sword used to slay the werewolf 200 years earlier) and casts six silver bullets to slay the werewolf.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: If you drive a Wooden Stake through your wife's heart, the police will arrest you.
  • Tarot Troubles: Every time Dr. Schreck draws the cards to show the travellers their fate, the four cards drawn are always Major Arcana. And whenever he turns the fifth card to show then how they may escape their fate, it is always Death.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Honestly, Biff! You play the stolen voodoo music and it causes a massive windstorm inside the jazz club, so instead of burning it as your friend suggests, you decide to take the score home to improve the arrangement?
  • Vampire Doctor: In "Vampire", Dr. Bob Carroll returns to his home in the United States with his new French bride, Nicolle. Soon there is evidence that a vampire is on the loose, and Carroll seeks the aid of his colleague, Dr. Blake. They find that Nicolle is the vampire. Following Blake's advice, Carroll kills Nicolle. When the police come to arrest Carroll for his wife's murder, Blake denies giving any such advice. As the police take Carroll away, Blake says to himself that the city isn't big enough for two doctors or two vampires, and he turns into a bat.
  • Wooden Stake: In the "Vampire" segment, Dr. Blake convinces Dr. Caroll that his wife is a vampire, and that the only way to kill her is to drive a stake through her heart. Dr. Caroll does so. Afterwards, the police arrive and arrest him for murder. He screams for Dr. Blake to back up his story, but Blake denies any knowledge of what he is talking about. After the police drag Caroll away, Blake turns into a bat, announcing that this town isn't big enough for two doctors, or two vampires.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Dr. Schreck's Tarot draws apparently reveal that there is no way for the five passengers to escape the fates he predicts for them. However, what the fifth card (Death) is actually saying is that will avoid these fates because they are already dead.