15 July 2024

Director Pete Walker was born in January of 1939, the son of a music hall comedian and a chorus girl. In his early twenties, Walker worked at Brighton Film Studios on TV ads before beginning to dabble in bit part acting, including roles in The Breaking Point and Exodus (both 1960).

The early 1960s saw Walker trying his first fit in the director's chair. Founding the production company Heritage Films, Walker steadfastly churned out a countless number of sexploitation quickies. 1968 saw his first real feature with Hot Girls For Men Only (AKA I Like Birds).

After helming several thrillers (1971's Die Screaming, Marianne among them), Walker crafted his first real horror film with 1972's moody The Flesh and Blood Show.

The story: at the bidding of a mysterious producer, a group of actors gather at an old abandoned pier theatre where someone begins killing the unsuspecting thespians. With a tone derived from both classic mysteries as well as a nice dash of giallo flavor, Show manages a good deal of atmosphere and marks positively Walker's entry into the terror genre.

1974 saw two additional horrors from the director: the entertaining House of Whipcord, as well as Frightmare, an exemplary Texas Chainsaw Massacre variation.

In House, several young women find themselves trapped in a 'hospital' where harsh punishment is doled out for loose morals. Frightmare chronicles the exploits of Edmund and Dorothy Yates, cannibals who've paid their heinous debt to society and begin a new, clean life after fifteen years of rehabilitation...but will they?

Walker's next feature was the disturbing Catholic shocker The Confessional (1975). Demented priest Father Meldrum tapes his parishioners' confessions and then blackmails them. But when his subjects don't pay...he murders them in savage fashion. A salacious storyline to its credit, The Confessional is bolstered by some flagrant death sequences: murder by incense burners, rosary beads, poisoned communion wafers...

The director continued his terror momentum with1976's slasher Schizo. Pretty ice skater Samantha suddenly realizes she's being stalked by a deranged nutbag, presumably her mother's killer now come to claim her as well. As the bodies pile up, will Samantha be able to avoid a deadly fate...or is there another Schizo in the mix?

But in many ways it is perhaps 1978's The Comeback that remains Walker's most distilled slasher outing. The story: singer Nick Cooper (played by pop crooner Jack Jones) decides to make a 'comeback' album, settling down in a large English country house for the chore.

But after someone in a hag mask and granny dress viciously murders Nick's wife Gail, the singer finds those around him begin to mysteriously disappear. Is someone out to thwart Nick's return to music...or simply to claim his life? An implausible motivation for the killer's onslaught can largely be forgiven - thanks to a generally sustained tension in The Comeback, buttressed by the rather powerful opening murder of Gail. A pre-Curtains fright mask makes some difference here.

Walker's last horror was 1983's gothic twist House of the Long Shadows. On a bet, a young writer retires to a Welsh manor to write a novel in 24 hours...but is soon distracted by an arriving host of odd characters and some unfinished business from the mansion's past.

Starring Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and John Carradine, with Long Shadows...Walker successfully straddles past terror conventions with modern sensibilities, employing a clever plot ending all the while garnering good performances from its seasoned cast.

Having cultivated his own brand of low budget zest and splatter trash, Walker retired from directing in 1983, turning instead to property investment and the rescue/restoration of crumbling classic cinema houses.

A void created by the absence of Pete Walker's type of (often dank) terror films remains unfilled...and makes his horrors all the more invaluable.

The Comeback 1978
The Confessional 1976
The Flesh and Blood Show 1972
Frightmare 1974
House of the Long Shadows 1983
House of Whipcord 1974
Schizo 1976
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