If you’re going to build a house on a mountain shaped like a skull, you deserve what’s coming to you. Thus, you shouldn’t feel sorry for the people in The House on Skull Mountain; they really should know better. Although the title sounds like a haunted house movie, it’s really more of a voodoo tale centered on the Christophe family.
At the start of the film, old lady Pauline Christophe kicks the bucket. Her four great grandchildren — including hottie Lorena (Janee Michelle), skeevy Phillippe (Mike Evans, better known as Lionel #1 from The Jeffersons) and whitey Andrew (Victor French) — are invited to her spooky mansion outside of Atlanta for the funeral and the reading of the will. For some ridiculous reason, they’re convinced to spend a week at the house, at which point they learn that the family is descended from King Henry I of Haiti, who liberated the island from the French (not Victor) by invoking the voodoo spirit Dambala (also appearing in Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors).
Now, someone is invoking Dambala to do harm to the Christophes, but who? Could it be the creepy servants of the house, Thomas and Lovette? Or could it be someone who isn’t so damn obvious? I wish I could say it is. Despite the fact that Andrew appears to be about 20 years older than Lorena and 20 times uglier, a semi-incestuous affection develops between the cousins that thankfully is never consummated. There are hints that we’ll find out some juicy details about why Andrew is white (or, as Phillippe so eloquently puts it, “Who’s the honky in the woodpile?”), but alas, the movie ends with that question unanswered.
All around, The House on Skull Mountain teases us with its potential…its firm, taut, round potentials. While it’s attractive to look at and features talented actors, the scares are old-fashioned and tame, even for 1974. If the sight of a snake or a skull or a snake in a skull makes you scream uncontrollably, you might find this film frightening. Or you might be six years old.