Hillbillys in a Haunted House

July 26, 2010 at 1:28 am (3 Heads, Hillbillys in a Haunted House) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Hillbillys in a Haunted House – 1967 – United States

Don’t be fooled horror fans. Disregard Lon Chaney Jr., Basil Rathbone, and John Carradine on the bill, Hillbillys in a Haunted House isn’t for us. The threesome’s face time clocks a quarter of what’s spent on country crooners who sing for any reason. A sequel to Las Vegas Hillbillys, usually I wouldn’t bother, but the premise is winning: Country singers escape a storm in a haunted house, also home to Madam Wong’s international spy ring plus a killer ape. But mystery, adventure, and horror are the least of this musical comedy’s cares.

Creaky old Chaney, Rathbone, and Carradine are wasted. Confined to one set, they mosey around and toss off a couple stale jokes. Only Lon Chaney Jr. (looking haggard) occasionally engages, cackling about torture and baby-talking a man in a worn out gorilla suit. Horror elements amount to nil. The haunted house is a few bright sets gunked with very fake cobwebs. Throw in a transparent, reverb-voiced Confederate ghost and meager horror hootenanny like hands reaching from behind paintings.

So what do you expect from a title like Hillbillys in a Haunted House? Hopefully not humor. Funny moments (successful or no) are scanty. There’s few jokes, no slapstick—the attempted humor originates from an oafish fellow (named Jeepers, of all things) whose best effort is to look dopey. Of the sparse jokes, one got a chuckle: A Hillbilly hears a rattling chain and nervously quips, “Maybe it’s an owl?” Unfortunately, she’s not being wry.

No horror, no humor—what’s Hillbillys do for a 1.5 hours? Play country music. Country star cameos are numerous and arbitrary, each doing 2 songs back-to-back. For instance, a Hillbilly with insomnia watches television. What’s on? 2 songs. Or a singer hears guitar (from yet another song) as he drives by. Deciding to drop in, he twangs out his own 2 songs. But most telling is a 30-minute mini-concert after the Hillbillys escape the house and reach Nashville. If you dig country music, there’s stuff for you (a unique version of “The Cat Came Back” and a lap steel guitar), but you probably don’t.

Hillbillys isn’t pathetically awful—that would be entertaining. It’s just a boring quickie to cash in on country fans. If you’re curious, go ahead and indulge but prepare for anti-climax.

Rating: 3/10 Shrunken Heads. Aside from a sweet convertible adorned with steer horns, horseshoes, and guns, there’s nothing to see—move along.

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