Spain’s first major horror film production, The House that Screamed — AKA La residencia and The Boarding School — was based on a story by Juan Tébar. Because the cast had both English and Spanish actors, it was shot in both languages and then dubbed into English in post-production.
Directed and written by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (Who Can Kill a Child?), it takes place at a school for girls — reforming them and making them acceptable wives for their future husbands — in 19th century France run by Headmistress Señora Fourneau (Lilli Palmer). Teresa Garan (Cristina Galbó, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) is a newcomer to the school and instantly notices just how strange of a place it is. For example, she always feels like she’s being watched.
Fourneau rules the school by the whip — quite literally, she has no problem beating her students into submission — and has Irene Tupan (Mary Maude), an older student, as her near WIP second-in-command.
Yet things are not alright. Students keep going missing, Teresa is bullied when the girls discover that her mother is a prostitute and Luis (John Moulder-Brown), Fourneau’s son, is in love with Teresa despite the rules of her mother, who believes that none of these girls are good enough for him. He was once interested in Isabelle (Maribel Martín, The Blood Spattered Bride) until his mother roughly help his face and intoned, “These girls are not good enough for you. What you need is a woman like me!”
That’s when the film literally goes Psycho and wipes out a main character and the narrative transforms an antagonist into the protagonist. The horror, however, is nowhere near over for anyone. That whole idea of Luis finding a woman just like his mother comes back to haunt the headmistress.
This movie is gorgeous, predating Argento’s Bird With the Crystal Plumage by a few months and Suspiria by eight years. It’s as much a slasher as a gothic horror movie and works as both, as well as having elements of giallo and women in prison films. Yet above all, it remains classy and has lush colors, incredible cinematography and luscious interiors, making this quite the furniture movie. Even better, you can see the movies that took from it — Pieces might be a tribute movie — even if it’s not a movie that’s discussed all that often in the U.S.
I hope that the new Arrow Video release can change that.
It comes with a brand new 2K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films along with an audio commentary by critic Anna Bogutskaya. Extras include interviews with John Moulder-Brown, Mary Maude, Juan Tébar, the director’s son Alejandro Serrador and Spanish horror maestro Dr. Antonio Lázaro-Reboll. There’s also alternative footage from the original Spanish theatrical version, trailers, TV, radio spots and an image gallery. It comes inside a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch and has an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Shelagh Rowan-Legg and double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch. You can order The House That Screamed from MVD.