Monday, 18 March 2013

The Two Faces Of Evil

Hammer House of Horror is a series of much variety, particularly with regard to quality. ‘The Two Faces of Evil’, however, is an exceptional episode, not least because it is really scary.
Like all the best horror tales, ‘Two Faces Of Evil’ doesn’t mess about with exposition or, indeed, explanation. The ending is utterly inconclusive, but perfectly apt. What it does provide, however, is a world where something unearthly and terrifying is happening, and a nightmare of random violence, madness and death.

It begins with a cheery family unit (Martin and Janet Lewis and blond haired son, David) on their way to a holiday cottage in Buckinghamshire. During a sudden rainstorm they nearly hit a pedestrian, and then offer him a lift. Within seconds, the mysterious, silent man (dressed in a really creepy ensemble of bright yellow sou’wester and matching oilskins) attacks Martin, tearing at his face with his hand and, in particular, a single nasty, dirty pointed fingernail. Struggling for his life as Janet and David scream their heads off in the back, Martin flips the car over and everything goes black. 

Janet wakes up in that most sinister of locations, the Cottage Hospital, made all the more eerie by some interesting camera angles and shifty eyed staff. She’s alright, apart from a big bruise on her head, and David is unharmed. Martin, however, has undergone an emergency operation to remove some broken glass from his throat and is generally torn, scratched and battered (there's a particularly chilling scene where he raises himself up in bed and outstretches his bandaged hand in a gesture that is equal parts pitiful plea and evil monkey point. As he does so, blood slowly seeps through the bandage around his neck.) Nobody knows anything about the psychotic passenger - although, coincidentally, the authorities have found a corpse in the area that they have been unable to identify.

Janet finds that all of their luggage has been savagely ripped apart, and begins to have disjointed flashbacks to the immediate aftermath of the accident, seeing her husband fighting for his life (and theirs) against the frenzied onslaught of the passenger, who apparently lost a hand in the accident. 
Janet is asked if she can identify the corpse in the morgue and, although it is missing a hand, she cannot definitely say if it the body of their attacker although, bizarrely, it looks exactly like her husband.

Martin is discharged from the hospital and the family continue on to their holiday let. His throat is still bandaged, so he can’t speak, and he alternates between utter exhaustion and bouts of fury. One night, as he reaches to touch Janet's face, she notices he has a single nasty, dirty pointed fingernail. This Martin also has terrible teeth, in strict contrast to her 'real' husband’s pearly whites.

What follows is an increasingly frantic descent into the abyss, as Janet finds herself in a place that makes no sense and where everything she trusts and loves has becomes sinister and dangerous, including, eventually, her son, in an unforgettable moment that has haunted me for thirty odd years.

It is never explained why Martin has been ‘replaced’, or how. There's no quick tie up with some nonsense about aliens or doppelgangers or the compliant locals all being part of a coven. In actual fact, I don’t think there could be an adequate explanation, apart from the obvious answer that Janet is mad or concussed or dreaming, and everything that happens after the accident is a delusion, but I think that would be a cop out, and this is not a cop out sort of story – this is paranormal, primordial horror – urban myth, fairy tale, folk legend.     

One final note: in an apparently inexplicable story where a bizarrely dressed psycho stalks the land randomly ruining peoples lives, seemingly with the collusion of the authorities, is there possibly a clue to be had in the location?  


  1. Well said, sir. This really is a bloody horrifying story.
    I re-watch the entire run of HHOH every year, and when the words: 'The Two Faces Of Evil' appear on my TV, there's always a moment of pure dread.
    This appears to have been filmed in the exact location that bad dreams come from. Might be worth a visit. I wonder if there's a campsite at Butlers Cross ?

  2. Your final paragraph and image re. Stoke Mandeville speaks to an unparalleled attention to detail. Bravo.

  3. Stoke Mandeville Hospital was one of Jimmy Savile's favourite haunts.