House of Whipcord (1974)

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threehalfstar

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“This film is dedicated to those who are disturbed by today’s lax moral codes and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital punishment….”

What happens when moral standards are taken to the extreme? Director Pete Walker explores this idea in one of the most interesting horror exploitation films I’ve ever seen. I expected House of Whipcord to be a hot mess, but it was actually a pretty solid horror film with exceptional acting from just about every cast member. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the crème de la crème of horror cinema; it’s still super campy and goofy.

In an abandoned prison located in the English countryside, there’s a couple of sadistic older women who have turned the building into a phony correctional facility for corrupt young girls. The leader of the facility is an elderly blind man who is mentally in a different century, believing he’s some sort of judge that determines the life or death of imprisoned women. His wife, the reincarnation of the devil himself, and her son, Mark E. DeSade (hmm, sounds a bit similar to Marquis de Sade . . . ), are major sadists who purposely get the imprisoned girls in trouble so they can get off on their punishments, particularly flogging. Mark lures sinful women from the city by offering to bring them to his beautiful home in the countryside (aka the abandoned prison). The film focuses on a French model, Anne-Marie DeVarnet (Penny Irving), who is Mark’s latest prey. She seriously has the worst French accent ever, but she’s a pretty good actress nonetheless. There are lots of twists and turns that occur once Anne-Marie enters the prison, and it all leads to a very surprising ending.

I truly appreciated the 70s low budget charm in House of Whipcord. Shoddy camera work, high-pitched screams, eerie background music, and unnecessary nudity are plentiful, but there’s not a lot of gore, which is surprising for a film about torture and punishment. According to a few articles and reviews I’ve read about the film, it was supposed to make a political statement about censorship and right-wing policies on capital punishment. I guess I can sort of see where it touches on the absurdity of capital punishment, but that’s not the main focus of the film. This is a horror movie and I see it as nothing more than a horror movie. Ultimately, House of Whipcord is a horror film that delivers and does not disappoint.

House of Whipcord is currently streaming on Netflix.

-Britnee Lombas

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