04th May2020

‘The House of Violent Desire’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Kate Davies-Speak, Barrington De La Roche, Daniel McKee, Yasmin Ryan, Esme Sears, Joe Street, Carl Andersson, Rowena Bentley, Peter Cosgrove | Written and Directed by Charlie Steeds

I’ve been a fan, nay HUGE fan, of writer/director Charlie Steeds since I first saw his 2017 British-made pastiche of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Escape From Cannibal Farm. Since then I’ve eagerly awaited each and every one of his films – though to be fair to Steeds, the releases of his film can be very haphazard. Winterskin debuted on DVD before The Barge People, which actually lensed first. Unfortunately, the UK release of the aforementioned Escape From Cannibal Farm remains in limbo thanks to 88 Films buying the rights and then deciding to focus on re-releasing cult films rather than new movies and sitting on it for 2 years (so far).

I finally got to see An English Haunting, Steeds’ take on gothic horror a la Hammer horror and the classic M.R. James Christmas ghost stories, earlier this year. Yet one of Steeds recent films escaped me: The House of Violent Desire. So imagine my surprise when it, and Steeds first feature film Deadman Apocalypse (another rarity here in the UK), turned up on the free ad-supported movie service offered by home cinema app Plex. So what’s a Dark Temple Films fan but to do but watch it straight away!

Filmed in 2017 (though officially dated 2018), The House of Violent Desire is actually the first of Steeds films to show his love of gothic Hammer-style horror rather than his adoration of the exploitation fare you’d find in your local video shop back in the 80s/90s – which is clearly what inspired other films in his oeuvre. Though after watching The House of Violent Desire it seems that Steeds may also be a fan of the films of Pete Walker, Norman J. Warren and David McGillivray – and the kind of sleazy British horror that the trio were responsible for in the 70s. Oh, and that he LOVES the vivid, colour-filled lighting of Dario Argento’s giallos!

The film tells the story of the Whipley family – three young adults ruled by their strict religious mother, and their troubled father – who live in a remote hill top mansion (actually a wonderfully gothic French chateau) with their new maid Cordetta. One night, following young Evelyn Whipley found drenched in blood and mysteriously bound to the bed and the families patriarch having gone missing, a mysterious stranger emerges from a thunderstorm, seeking refuge. But this ‘stranger’ is more connected to this family and to the dark unknown history of the house than they suspect, and as the visitor begins to cultivate sexual tensions and paranoia within the house, the devilishly erotic history of the Whipley family threatens to lure them deep into its lustful, violent madness once again.

Once again Steeds teams up with a familiar group of actors for The House of Violent Desire: Kate Davies-Speak (Deadman Apocalypse, Cannibal Farm, The Barge People), Barrington De La Roche (every film Steeds has made!) and Rowena Bentley (Winterskin). Of the trio it’s Bentley who steals the show, much like she did in Winterskin, giving a particularly creepy, almost maniacal performance as the matriarch of the Whipley family who will stop at nothing to protect her kin “for the good of the family”. Nothing. Though the real star of The House of Violent Desire is the house itself, with its dark corridors, gothic atmosphere and moody lighting. Without the grandiose setting I don’t think the film would have half the impact it does, especially when it comes to sheer creep factor.

A psycho-sexual, S&M-fuelled nightmare about the perverse secrets swept under the rug of the British upper-class, The House of Violent Desire recalls the Vestron years of Ken Russell and his films Gothic and Lair of the White Worm; and the overtly sexual Euro horror of Jess Franco; all wrapped up in the colourful hue of Dario Argento’s gialli. And I don’t think there’s any higher praise I can give it than that.

The House of Violent Desire is available to watch on Plex now.

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