RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: THE SHUTTERED ROOM (1967)

AKA:  Blood Island

DIRECTED BY: David Green

FEATURINGOliver Reed, Gig Young, Flora Robson,

PLOT: In this H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, a a string of grisly killings is linked to an unnameable creature inhabiting the loft of an abandoned New England mill inherited by newlyweds.

Still from THE SHUTTERED ROOM (1967)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST:   The Shuttered Room showcases a strange story of monsters and madness. The setting is claustrophobic and creepy, the characters are downright bizarre, and so are the situations that the protagonists stumble into. The cinematography is expertly, if not artfully, executed. Thus the viewer expects a conventional storyline, and it is unsettling when shocking events unfold.

COMMENTS:  A newlywed couple, Mike and Susannah Kelton (Young, Lynley) travel to an island off of the Connecticut shoreline to visit an old mill which Sue just inherited.  It was once her childhood home.  From the start, she has reservations, but the couple perseveres at Mike’s urging.  They need to view the property with the goal of renovating the mill into a bed and breakfast.

As soon as they arrive on the island, the locals begin subjecting them to the old “Yew ain’t from around here!” treatment (even though Sue is). Mike meets her uncle who insists that they should leave.  The uncle’s employee shows Mike his mutilated face, missing an eye, and reports that the injury was caused by the devil when he got drunk and spent a night in the abandoned mill.  The couple also meet the local ruffians, a gang of unsavory toughs led by a psychopath named Ethan (Reed), who happens to be Sue’s cousin.  Mike is a dignified magazine editor. Both he and Sue are city-slickers—and it shows.  The hooligans waste no time expressing their country-fried contempt for the educated, well dressed pair. They brazenly leer at Sue, and even her cousin Ethan has incestuous rape in mind.

The initial scene in The Shuttered Room furnishes a glimpse at some sort of childhood trauma caused by an insane relative who attacked Sue when she was a toddler. A dirty back room secret, the miscreant is kept confined to special quarters in the old mill.  The restraint chamber is blocked by a sinister red door with a very weird peephole protected by cruel spikes.  Sue represses her early memories, and the denial is causing her to have psychological issues.  The couple find Sue’s old toys, family furnishings, and can’t help but note that strange door. What was once behind the door holds the answer to Sue’s latent angst. Discovering answers about her past was part of her motivation to return to the island; she quickly begins to question the wisdom of digging them up.

As soon as the couple settle in, they share an intimate moment interrupted by Ethan licentiously peeping at them through a window.  He leads them to a decrepit lighthouse where Sue has a reunion with her eccentric Aunt Agatha (Robson), who warns the Keltons about a curse on Sue’s family.  She learns that her parents were killed by lightning and that the old mill harbors a deadly secret.  Auntie implores the pair to leave the island at once lest the curse befall them too.  As the couple explores the mill and the island, they have several unsavory encounters with the gang of nutty, violent locals.  Ethan’s girlfriend shows up at the mill late at night to steal a coveted item from the Keltons and is mysteriously and monstrously slashed to death.

The old mill itself is as creepy as can be with a sinister overhanging loft several stories over the entrance.  The loft features a mysterious trap door in its floor once used for winching up sacks of grain.  An imposing structure, it is the room behind the creepy red door and holds the danger that the islanders dread.

Ultimately the thugs ambush and waylay Mike to divert him while Ethan attempts to rape Sue. Mike gets away and rushes to his wife’s rescue, where they discover that Ethan has unleashed the dreaded family curse. When it manifests itself, Ethan and the Keltons fight for their lives in a bizarre and cathartic showdown.

The Shuttered Room is a Gothic story about isolation, the unknown, dreadful places, and being trapped.  It is not a fast paced splatterfest of a horror movie, but the setting and situations are dreadfully creepy, unusual and memorable. Basil Kirchin’s (The Abominable Dr. Phibes)  lively, innovative score enhances the film’s atmosphere of psychic anxiety.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“… the story lacks a single legitimate character with any semblance of logic, depth, or motivation. It’s almost surreal in this sense, like watching one of those bizarre giallos where the killer seems to draw all sorts of attractive women into his path as if through some unspoken gravitational force.”–Mike Lorefice, Raging Bull Reviews (DVD)

3 thoughts on “RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: THE SHUTTERED ROOM (1967)”

  1. It certainly starts out promising, but then it ditches most of whatever atmosphere it’s built up and suddenly turns into a lame version of JANE EYRE with rednecks. Disappointing, even with actors such as Robson, Reed, Young and Lyndley.

  2. Hi to any other fans out there of the movie THE SHUTTERED ROOM ( October 12th, 2015)

    So I am one of the biggest fans of the movie THE SHUTTERED ROOM! I even went as far as to track down the current land owner of the land where the old mill house once sat before it was burned down for the movies ending and this man was nice enough to go back to the mill pond area and he actually found me 2 very old light red bricks which have faded in color from age and he found a block of clay or something like clay but it is hard yet light weight and it almost loks like a piece of the old light gray plaster on the walls that you can see towards the end of the movie when Oliver Reed is up in the loft area searching for Carol so he told me that there is NO DOUBT at all that these pieces were actually once part of the brick structure of the old Hardingham mill used in the movie or they could even be pieces of the original arches that you see the water racing thru them in the shots of the mill house during the movie so I was very pleased to obtain these items for my SHUTTERED ROOM collection because lets face it, anyone who enjoys this movie like I have ever since I 1st saw it here in the USA on some late night weekend horror movie slot back in the early 70’s and if you collect items on this movie you know how very scarce items are and how few items are out there so I would like to know or even begin a SHUTTERED ROOM fan club IF there is not one already? Does anyone know if there is such a club?

    Also I have met Carol Lynley on 3 different trips that I took to Hollywood Ca from 2014 thru 2013 when I attended movie collector’s shows and they not only had very many dealers of old movie collectable’s, they also had / have MANY stars from past movies and TV shows mostly from the 60’s and 70’s there and they sign autographs for you and Carol is a regular at these shows and I talked with her for a good 2 hours during my 2nd meeting with her and WOW did she really have some great stories that she shared with me of her memories about making the S.R. both funny and serious stories and one of the main questions that I asked her was…did they actually film the scenes up in the loft room of the actual mill or was that a sound stage at the studio and also she told me how she also was made up as her sister when Oliver was being attacked and that the other actress Ms. Bell was also in that scene just before Oliver fell to his death and she shared a story about her brief romance with Oliver while they were filming the movie and she laughed when she recalled how Gig Young had such a hard time keeping that big car on the graveled road and what a hard time the camera men had trying to keep up with Gigs driving and also she said she was in tears when the time came for the crew to set fire to that old mill house which she still thinks today was a big mistake for them to burn it down but then again it would have cost the studio a fortune to build a fake (front view replica0 of that mill and use it in the fire scene and she share so many more memories when she was making the movie which I would love to share with other fans of this VERY OVER-LOOKED movie which NEVER gets aired on TV here in the USA except for Turner Classic Movies who aired it on Halloween night about the time the DVD came out.

    If anyone would like to chat about this movie please feel free to email me anytime or if anyone knows about a fan club or chat room per say where other fans of this film talk with one another and share their feelings about it, PLEASE let me know.

    Many thanks,

    Chris Holland

    1. I love this film too. Read the book when I was young, then saw the film (don’t remember when), and bought the DVD a year or so back. I’d forgotten most of the film, especially that T-Bird, so it’s cool to read you talking about Mr. Young having a time keeping it straight on the gravel road – it looked like he almost scraped the driver’s side on the barb wire fence. I like the car most, but now getting into the building… I suppose you’ve seen the attached site about the Hardingham Mill (I hope this lets me post a link). Incredible to read a post from someone who lived there as a child and saw the mill burned down.
      http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/hardingham.html

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