review for House of Whipcord on AllMovie

House of Whipcord (1975)
by Robert Firsching review

Cult director Pete Walker's disturbingly effective horror film belongs to the "private prison" subgenre, in which insane sadists abduct typically female innocents and torture them for sport. In this case, however, the mad Mrs. Wakehurst (Barbara Markham) and her senile husband, Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr), are running an entire covert penal institution for sinful women, complete with a pair of similarly dotty guards (Sheila Keith and Dorothy Gordon). Using her clueless son (Robert Tayman), who poses as a man named "Mark E. Desade," as bait, Mrs. Wakehurst lures women whom she considers evil into her huge institutional home. Once captured, they are put in cells, beaten, and murdered for even the slightest infraction. The story is told -- mostly in flashback -- by a French model named Ann-Marie (Penny Irving) who fell for the trap. Despite its nasty reputation, there is only one onscreen whipping (on a church altar) and not very much violence. Instead, Walker and screenwriter David McGillivray convey a rather subtle air of menace that makes House of Whipcord an unexpectedly strong chiller. Markham is quite good as the deranged Mrs. Wakehurst, and Walker appears in a cameo as a cyclist. Many viewers will be offended by the film's repressive right-wing tone, but its genuine scares and creepy atmosphere will outweigh its philosophical offenses for most horror fans.