I have a weird relationship with Richard Matheson. I’m a big fan of his work, sort of. He certainly was influential, with his work on the Twilight Zone and I Am Legend having a large impact in my life. But also the book I Am Legend is significantly weirder than any of the movie adaptations. The closest film is Omega Man with Charlton Heston, with the weird sexuality of the vampires being one of their biggest threats. Matheson often disliked adaptations of his work that I consider to be their best treatment. Hell House meanwhile is weird from top to bottom.
I first heard of it in the movie, Legend of Hell House. I read the book because the movie was so weird I had to know more of what was going on to see if it made more sense. It super doesn’t, the core motivation of the baddie is basically just hand-wavy “he’s insane” nonsense. The movie succeeds in the small areas in which it does succeed by being a vibe. The set design is chilling and dark, literally, and gives an oppressive feeling to everything. Ghost horror in a setting where the wall paper is all dark and busy, and you can see shapes everywhere and the corners are extra dark… it all just works.
The book works by making the bad guy a bigger threat. He appears bodily and threatens them all in his incorporeal form, and a lot of the things that are implied and silly in the movie are expanded on in the original text. It makes Hell House itself a lot more believable as this legendary threat that’s killed a dozen mediums. That being said, I don’t think the plot is really good enough for a recommendation.
Thorough meh, do as you will.