Retro Horror – Death Line (1972)

A very British and gory horror from the past. Death Line otherwise known as Raw Meat stars Donald Pleasance & Christopher Lee. This creepy tale may linger with you long after you’ve finished watching it.

 

Plot

A long forgotten abandoned part of the underground hosts generations of a family who live in savage conditions. Cut off from the world they have devolved over the years into beast-like deformed creatures who feed on rats and the odd human or two. Their existence remains unknown to the rest of the world until an important OBE goes missing in the subway.

 

Creep (2004)

I need to get this out of the way first. The movie Creep has unashamedly ripped this film off. If you’ve seen Creep then unfortunately there a few surprises to be had from Death Line however it is always great to see the original. The most positive spin I can put on it is that the makers of Creep must have felt it was a good enough story to retell for a modern audience (although I still call it a rip-off rather than a homage).

Gore

This movie doesn’t really go in for the jump scares which is refreshing. Practical effects and fairly decent make-up effects are used and the focus seems to be on the visually macabre. Long slow panning shots of a meat locker shows bodies in varying degrees of decomposition. The underground dwellers with deformed faces covered in warts and blisters. Slitting throats and impaling bodies with bits of goo on show for all. But look beyond the gross-out stuff which is tame anyway compared to today’s standard and you’ll find a story with some heart.

 

Twas Beauty That Killed The Beast

Coming in at a short 88 mins the film’s ending feels a bit rushed. Either they ran out of money or ideas for a big finale and it ends on more of a whimper than a bang. That said, there are plenty of subtle scenes that will stick with you long after the film’s end. We get to feel compassion for the main screen monster here and there are some lovely touches showing some history and lineage to the other generations that have come before him. The laying of the dead with a prize or expensive trinket on each chest shows a love and tender side to the misunderstood monster. Also, although never said out loud, the desperation of his bloodline dying out and finishing with him is very apparent and I found myself feeling sorry for this creature.

 

Donald Pleasance & Christopher Lee

It would be remiss of me not to mention these two horror heavyweights. Donald is superb as Inspector Calhoun, offering nuance and layers to what could have been a very boring and cardboard part. He is arrogant and delights in teasing those around him but is always likeable and quite funny in most scenes. Lee barely features at all but does have the pleasure of sharing probably the best scene in the movie with Pleasance. The two characters spitting witticisms at each other like swords is joyous to watch. Sadly short but still stands out.

 

 

I really enjoyed this movie. It’s thoughtful and lingers around after watching. The end as I mentioned may feel a bit lack luster to some but it fits well with a small story and short running time. Check out Death Line AKA Raw Meat over Halloween!

 

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