*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- Tortured by Desires His Vows Forbid, Master of a House of Mortal Sin
Release Date- February 1976
Running Time- 103-Minutes
Screenplay- David McGillivray & Pete Walker
Director- Pete Walker
Starring- Anthony Sharp, Susan Penhaligon, Stephanie Beacham, Norman Eshley and Sheila Keith
Released in 1976 The Confessional, which also goes under such titles as House of Mortal Sin, The Confessional Murders & The Confessional: House of Mortal Sin is a solid film, but like some of Pete Walker’s films the execution could be slightly off at times. The Confessional is much more of a thriller, but the graphic murders are what links it to the horror genre. The 70s are my favorite for cinema and the horror genre was at its very best with some truly frightening films and a lot of these films were as much drama as they were horror and this is very much the case with a good portion of Pete Walker’s films. 1976 was quite the year for religion themed horror as besides The Confessional we also had The Omen and Alice, Sweet Alice. The Confessional was a solid film, but doesn’t hit the highs of Pete Walker’s House of Whipcord and Frightmare both released in 1974, but in the end its a solid enough effort despite the somewhat sluggish pacing.
After Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) attends confession Father Xavier Meldrum (Sharp) becomes obsessed with her and resorts to blackmail and murder.
The screenplay by David McGillivray based off a story by Pete Walker is well plotted and well written with some solid characters. While the script isn’t perfect and can be a little too wordy at times it does make for a tense drama/thriller. The script also has some homages to Psycho, which was a nice tough even if a little cliched even for the time. I think the problem is at times the script does lose direction and some scenes feel as if they’re fillers; overall the script does have some flaws, but it still works well for the most part and is generally well written.
Director Pete Walker delivers some nice suspense, but like some of Walker’s other productions the ideas are there, but at times certain things can lack. The pace was strong early on, but as the film goes on pacing can be a bit of an issue at times and while I was never bored the film might have been better served with some editing. The one thing I love about Pete Walker’s films are the death scenes; once again Walker stages some terrific murders and quite honestly outside of Dario Argento, Walker’s films feature some of my favorite murders. Overall the direction is strong as is the film, but only brought down by some sluggish pacing at times. Films like Schizo and the Comeback while nice efforts were brought down by the pacing, but here despite the problem with pacing, the Confessional still turns out well. Don’t expect anything on the level of House of Whipcord or Frightmare, but in the end it’s a good film, but could again have used some editing in the middle.
Sheila Keith is a bit underused here and while she’s creepy it seems she was cast for the sake of it as she never really gets to show off her talents like she did in past Pete Walker films House of Whipcord and Frightmare. With that said though Sheila Keith is great despite being underused and towards the end she gets a little more to do, but when you have an actress of her caliber you must take advantage of that. Also look for Kim Butcher of Frightmare in a small role in the opening act.
Over the Confessional was a solid entry in the career of Pete Walker and again the middle sections can lack at times, but when all is said and done this was a solid enough film that should please fans of Pete Walker. What it may lack in pacing, it makes up for in atmosphere and death scenes. Like I said just don’t expect House of Whipcord or Frightmare and take the film for what it is.