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Delusion/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

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The eighties were a transitionary time for exploitation cinema. 1981’s Delusion (aka The House Where Death Lives) is one of the films that fell through the cracks. Perhaps it was hard to categorize, capitalizing, as it does, on both the mystery and horror genres. Flat, strange, and ambiguous, the film’s charms lie in subtlety and the mirror reflection of the curious world that it presents.

Newly hired live-in nurse Meredith (Patricia Pearcy) finds herself a witness to things she has questions about: namely a series of violent in-house murders. It’s a great, if often used, premise—and director Alan Beattie makes creative use of a stationary location: a well-appointed, obviously lived in secluded estate. But Delusion, narrated such as it is with Meredith’s plaintive voiceover, could be better.

The cast of characters is certainly intriguing. There’s head of the house Mr. Langrock (Hollywood legend Joseph Cotton in a late career turn) as a bed-bound invalid, Gabriel (John Dukakis) Langrock’s emotionally disturbed visiting nephew, alcoholic manservant/lawyer Phillip (Leon Charles), shoot-from-the-hip cook Duffy (Alice Nunn), and always popping in financial advisor Jeffrey (David Hayward). Any one of them could be the shovel wielding perpetrator.

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A semi-nude sexual encounter, a curious room where an unseen family member resides, and a hanging dog are a few of the films’ “shockers.” Crafty, nicely photographed, atmospheric and accompanied by a good “mystery” score, Delusion, no cinematic masterwork this one, nevertheless does what it’s supposed to do: offer up a few distractions before the big final act reveal.

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Josiah Howard is the author of four books including the seminal Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide. His writing credits include articles for The New York Times, Reader’s Digest and The Village Voice. A veteran of more than 100 radio broadcasts he is a regular contributor to Grindhouse Cinema Database and in 2014-15 made regular appearances on TV One’s award-winning documentary series Unsung. Visit his Official Website.
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