Sherlock Holmes and his trusty pal Watson are back to solve another tough case. The films have really been consistent with how great they all are and this is no exception. In fact, I dare say that the House of Fear is up there as one of the best Sherlock Holmes films to date. The setting is great and the mystery is a classic. You certainly won’t be able to not get enthusiastic about the case by the end.
It starts off with a group of rich people meeting up at an old house. They are having a toast when one of them dies. Nobody had taken it seriously when a letter arrived saying that one of them would perish, but they have to face the music now. A second letter arrives which leads to another death. They are forced to call in Sherlock Holmes. Some of the men are happy about this while others are not. Either way Holmes isn’t here to make friends so he prepares to blow this case wide open and find out who the murderer is before it’s too late. He better hurry though since the culprit isn’t done with this group yet.
This is classic Holmes in every which way. The setting of a haunted house is perfect for a mystery like this one and it even uses the classic premise of everyone getting bumped off one by one. That’s always been a horror tactic that works quite well if you ask me. Throwing in Holmes adds an extra wrinkle as the villains can’t take it too easy. The suspects are also solid as there are quite a few of them and they all have distinctive character. First there is the surgeon who takes everything in stride and really enjoys reading about murder. Perhaps he wants to finally put some of this into practice. Then we have the bubbly chairman who is always happy. The guy is thrilled to have Holmes on board which is always a red flag. There is also the tough guy of the group who keeps coming close to death. Why is the murderer failing so often when it comes to him? There are quite a few suspects on the table here so watch them all carefully. You’ve also got suspects outside the house like a Sailor who likes hanging around the area. The guy seems a little suspect and one of the victims did perish thanks to a knot that is usually used by sea men. There’s also the maid who calmly delivers the letters each night despite the fact that they always result in fatalities.
Fortunately Sherlock Holmes has yet to meet the case that is too difficult for him. This one does manage to keep him in the dark for most of it though. In fact, you could argue that this is one of the few times where Holmes really didn’t crack the case and the only reason the day was saved at the end was thanks to Watson. Perhaps Sherlock’s overconfidence actually got the best of him for once. Still, he definitely looks really good in this film. Certainly the detective that you want to have in your corner as he considers all of the angles.
Watson is a great sidekick to have as always. His habit of muttering under his breath never gets old and you do have to like his confidence. While Holmes may best him most of the time, it never deters Watson. He also gets to use his gun a little more than usual here as he engages in a battle against multiple hostiles. Watson probably has the funniest scenes of each Holmes film so the franchise just wouldn’t be the same without him.
Lestrade also gets to show up and he is as skeptical of Holmes as he always is. The guy just won’t cut him a break even though Holmes has proved time and time again that he always tends to be right in the end. I wonder why the Police Chief seems to have such a grudge against him. I suppose it’s just a competitive sort of thing as Lestrade wants to be right for a change, but that time doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen anytime soon.
The ending to the film is pretty satisfying and also rather unexpected so that was a nice bonus. It may be a bit of a stretch, but honestly I don’t remember enough of the details pertaining to what would make this a stretch that I can debate the point. It’s something I’d be on the lookout for in a re watch, but thrillers are best to watch on the 1st run so I’d want my memory to get a lot fainter by that point.
The writing is unquestionably excellent. The mystery holds up well and there are a good amount of red herrings without overdoing it completely. For every red herring there is still a real hint and with the body count continuing to rise you never lose the sense of tension that you want the film to continue with. The film’s pacing is also pretty tight. It seems a little longer than most of the other Holmes films, but that may be because of how much it crams into the mystery. There is a lot to digest here, that’s for sure.
Overall, The House of Fear lives up to its name. The heroes even have to brave the elements at one point since this haunted house tends to lock its doors at the worst possible times. There’s never a dull moment in this film and I’d highly recommend checking it out. It has a good blend of suspense and humor. Two genres that are typically hard to blend together but this film shows how smoothly it can be done. I don’t want to say that this is the best Holmes film yet as that’s a bold claim, but I dare say that it is certainly top 3. It’ll be tough for any future film to surpass this one, but with this series there is always a chance.