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The House of the Dead (1978) - Blu-ray Review

3 beers

This is homegrown horror, my friends.  As loopy as it is, The House of the Dead (originally released as Alien Zone) can’t be knocked for being inauthentic.  This Amicus-like horror anthology –  connected by one main storyline as one man, having an affair, gets dropped off on the wrong street by a taxi and winds up in front of a spooky mortuary – doesn’t create the suspense needed to keep up the interest past two stories, but the two stories that work are damn good. {googleads}

The B-grade picture disappoints when compared to other anthologies.  It is; however, interesting as a slice of regional horror, coming straight out of Oklahoma, and does remain an unforgettable low-key shocker.

The House of the Dead, presented on Blu-ray thanks to Vinegar Syndrome’s HD restoration, works because of two stories.  One involves competing sleuths.  The other involves masked children and what they hide behind the masks is the root of many a terrible night.  The other stories, including the main one, are pretty dull. 


"This anthology is certainly interesting and B-movie enthusiasts will dig what it does on its limited budget"

Directed by Sharron Miller and written by David O’Malley (The Boogens), this anthology is low budget through and through.  It was filmed in parts of Stillwater and Ponca City (close to where I now reside), so it is interesting to watch unfold in that regional sense.  The film stars John Ericson, Ivor Francis, Judith Novgrod , and Bernard Fox and features a theme song by Steve March

The anthology opens with the affair before diving into the first (and best remembered) story about a lonely schoolteacher and the little children that ultimately invade her small home.  Talk about terror-stirring.  This story, brief and disturbing, is the best entry point to this collection of horror stories, establishing early the dark atmosphere that is the best thing about this movie.  That air does not stir; it remains thick which is appreciated.

But the second one, a spin on the whole “peeping Tom” thing, is interesting enough but it goes nowhere.  The mortician explains what happens to him.  It is an interesting story as he prefers to record his dates and kills, but we are let off the hook all too soon. 

And then the third story – about competing criminologists who try to outsmart each other – arrives and, thanks to the crackling performances from actors Charles Aidman and Bernard Fox, it outshines all the rest.  This one, as two sleuths compete to solve a mystery that seems suspect from the very beginning, is completely on point.  Everything clicks in place to create a tight narrative that might even work better if extended. The House of the Dead (1978) - Blu-ray Review

Even the concluding story, about a man who becomes everything he despises in the course of a few hours, falls short when compared to the first and third narratives.  This anthology is certainly interesting and B-movie enthusiasts will dig what it does on its limited budget.  It definitely gets bonus points for its effort in the horror genre.

The House of the Dead is now on blu-ray thanks to a brand new 2K scan from the original 35mm camera negative by Vinegar Syndrome.


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The House of the Dead (1978) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
79 mins
: Sharron Miller
David O'Malley
John Ericson, Ivor Francis, Judith Novgrod
: Horror
Eventually we all must pass through the... Alien Zone.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Doesn't this bother any of you that we're on the island where the party of the year is supposed to be happening and it is completely deserted?"
Theatrical Distributor:
Jupiter Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
January 16, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 31, 2018
Synopsis: Four tales of intrigue and horror await anyone brave enough to enter the HOUSE OF THE DEAD… When a philandering husband accidentally finds himself lost during a rainstorm, he’s taken in by an elderly mortician and is forced to learn the ghastly origins of four freshly arrived corpses: a scornful teacher whose students teach her a fatal lesson, an amateur filmmaker with a deadly muse, two dueling detectives attempting to solve a mysterious murder, and a bitter man whose arrogance costs him everything ...


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The House of the Dead (1978) - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome
Available on Blu-ray
- July 31, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A and B

Vinegar Syndrome presents this region free Blu-ray/DVD combo from a newly scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm camera negative.  The new 2K transfer of The House of the Dead is crisp and crackling with nice color levels and shadows.  The banged around 35mm print is not nearly as scratched and problematic as it was. The digital transfer is much appreciated, even if it can’t save the flick from all the print damages.  The high grain is to be expected.  It is presented in the film’s ratio of 1.85:1 and features a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack for all of your dialogue listening needs.



  • While highly recommended, it is sad that there are no commentaries for the film.

Special Features:

This release comes with two audio interviews.  One is with director Sharron Miller and the other is with David O’Malley.  They are both interesting to listen to for fans of the movie.  The release also includes reversible Alien Zone cover artwork.  Fans should note that a special limited edition embossed slipcover (designed by Earl Kessler Jr.) is limited to just 1,500 units and is only available at VinegarSyndrome.com.

  • Audio interview with director Sharron Miller
  • Audio interview with writer David O’Malley


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The House of the Dead (1978) - Blu-ray Review