Directors: John Astin and Jeff Corey
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Joanna Pettet, Paul Richards, Steven Franken, Louis Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, Grayson Hall, Rachel Roberts, Jan Burrell, and Almira Sessions
Composer: Robert Prince
Gallery Painter: Tom Wright
Air Date: 12/30/1970
While living in a sanitarium, mental patient Elaine Latimer (Joana Pettet) dreams about driving on a country road and happening upon a beautiful house. Following her release, Elaine encounters the actual house from her dream—supposedly haunted in spite of its uneventful history.
Exploring precognition and haunted houses in a dreamlike setting, this segment contains all the ingredients for a creepy Night Gallery offering. Unfortunately, “The House” struggles to develop its narrative concept in a captivating manner.
Though lacking direction and coherence, “The House” benefits from the delicate performance of Joanna Pettet—whom Night Gallery fans may recognize from “The Caterpillar,” “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes,” and “Keep in Touch – We’ll Think of Something.” Specifically, Pettet’s expressions of confusion, curiosity, and silent resignation compel the viewer to sympathize with Elaine—a disturbed woman with a gentle personality.
“The House” is marred by insufferable pacing, copious slow-motion effects, and overuse of conversational dialogue—all aspects that prevent this segment from building a surreal, haunting atmosphere upon a supernatural-themed premise.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Also worth criticizing is the final twist involving Elaine’s ghost, who appears without explanation before confronting the real version of herself—a nonsensical ending to a poorly written segment.
Despite failing to convey a clear and insightful message, “The House” seems to indicate that suggestive influences can severely alter one’s perception of reality—a common trope within the genre of psychological horror.
“The House” suffers from a confusing and tedious execution. Pettet’s portrayal of Elaine may, however, evoke praise from those of a sensitive nature.
Overall Quality: 3/10
Certain Shadows on the Wall
After dying at the hands of her brother Stephen (Louis Hayward), Emma Brigham (Agnes Moorehead) returns as a shadow on the wall. Meanwhile, Emma’s other siblings—Ann (Grayson Hall) and Rebecca (Rachel Roberts)—devise a sinister plan for Stephen.
“Certain Shadows on the Wall” makes effective use of a simple, spooky narrative premise. Especially memorable is the performance of Agnes Moorehead, who, as in The Twilight Zone episode entitled “The Invaders,” delivers a powerful impact through tormented body language and expressions.
In the opening sequence, Stephen is presented as a loving caregiver to his sister Emma—a ghoulish invalid similar to Zelda from Pet Sematary. While interacting with Ann and Rebecca, on the other hand, Stephen reveals himself as a cold-hearted snake devoid of both conscience and compassion—a clever character twist that serves to justify Stephen’s predicament following the death of Emma.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Seeking revenge on her brother, Rebecca poisons Stephen with the same “medicine” that he gave to Emma prior to her death. A more satisfying conclusion, in contrast, would have Stephen—visibly perturbed by the shadow in spite of his ostensible skepticism—going insane and later dying of shock over the apparition on the wall.
On a related note, the shadow itself fails to move, moan, or interact with the characters in a manner that would enhance the creep factor of its inexplicable nature—an unimaginative, albeit slightly unnerving, execution of a chilling ghost story concept.
A flawed but eerie Night Gallery offering, “Certain Shadows on the Wall” should appeal to viewers with a taste for supernatural horror. Those of a critical inclination may, however, condemn this segment for its mediocre ending and slow-moving sequences.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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