Five tourists in an old abbey stray into a crypt, and encounter the Crypt Keeper who reveals to each of them that they are damned souls by telling the gruesome tales of their deaths.
After the 1964 hit Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, Amicus Films -- Hammer’s major rival in the British horror business -- specialised in anthology films on the model of Dead of Night, often drawing on the stories of Robert Bloch (Torture Garden, Asylum, The House That Dripped Blood). Their biggest commercial success was this 1972 adaptation of the scurrilous, much-banned 1950s EC horror comics of the 1950s, directed with tact and style by Freddie Francis, led off by an amazing coup in the casting of Sir Ralph Richardson as the Crypt Keeper.
All five stories are winners, with memorably nasty highlights: ‘All Through the House’ is the one about a murderess (Joan Collins) being menaced on Christmas Eve by a homicidal maniac dressed as Santa Claus, ‘Reflections of Death’ has Ian Hendry staggering away from a car wreck in a lengthy subjective camera sequence that pays off with a predictable but chilling encounter with a mirror, ‘Poetic Justice’ is about the persecution of a lonely old man (Peter Cushing, acting above and beyond the call of duty) who gets to return as a hollow-eyed ghoul to get revenge, ‘Wish You Were Here’ is a gruesome variation on ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ with Richard Greene and ‘Blind Alleys’ pits the cruel new director of a home for the blind (Nigel Patrick) against an inmate (Patrick Magee) who stages an elaborately unpleasant come-uppance involving a narrow corridor lined with razor-blades and a starving alsatian. It has an effective, matter-of-fact style, with solid cameos from interesting guest stars and punch-lines that can still make you cringe.
Imaginative and solidly performed ensemble horror.