Ghosthouse (1987)
By: Mr Intolerance on September 5, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
X Rated Kult DVD (Germany). Region 2, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0 Mono, German DD 2.0 Mono. 91 minutes
The Movie
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Lara Wendel, Donald O'Brian, Greg Scott, Ron Houck
Screenplay: Umberto Lenzi, Sheila Goldberg, Cinthia McGavin Music: Piero Montanari
Tagline: "Death holds the mortgage, and if you move in…there'll be Hell to pay"
Country: Italy
AKA: La Casa 3;, La Casa 3 - Ghosthouse
Ghosthouse. Or, if you prefer, when Umberto Lenzi really dropped the ball. This film stinks out loud, and is only partially redeemed by some uber-brutal set pieces. I guess this film shows the flip-side of having a reputation – when you really fuck up, it shows.

Also, for an extremely competent genre director, Lenzi has worn his influences far too obviously on his sleeve here – there's a wide gap between tribute/homage/tip-of-the-hat, and outright rip-off, and this film lunges lemming-like across it with all the grace and finesse of a spastic moose. Part Poltergeist (creepy clown doll – a nauseatingly poor prop which even looks like the one it's ripping-off, as well as household items flying all the room with a life of their own), part Amityville Horror (spooky, cursed, haunted house where a family was brutally slaughtered), part Scooby Doo, for fuck's sake (bunch of late teens/early twenty-something's trying to solve the mystery without the cops – but these guys are superior to the Scooby gang in that they have two vans!), Ghosthouse doesn't even approach becoming the sum of its inspiration.

The backstory is classic haunted house material: a family is butchered 20 years before the present day action takes place (the father's death scene is particularly nasty!), the house is left abandoned by locals but is happened upon by some kids from out of town. Two of these kids, ham radio enthusiast Paul and his petulant whiny girlfriend Martha, have arrived from Boston after picking up a mysterious message on Paul's radio, foretelling, as it happens, the apparent death or deaths of two of the gang staying at the house.

Weird shit starts happening – you know the drill, sing along with me, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it: things moving by themselves, household items exploding for no adequately explained reason, the occasional appearance of the long dead daughter (her name is Henrietta; parents can be so cruel…) and her homicidal clown doll – and then the violence really begins. Oh, those kooky spirits!

Ah yes, the violence. This is no let down: the opening (no pun intended) axe to the back of the head is more than acceptable, and there are some other delights on offer (the fan-blade throat-slash I actually stood up and applauded), but gore-hounds beware: the miserable performances are guaranteed to disappoint - I've seen better acting from extras in Joe D'Amato films - and the storyline is cobbled together from a whole bunch of far superior films, and will be very familiar to you. The splatter is good, but all-too-infrequent, I'm sorry to say.

A cliché-ridden mess from beginning to end, unfortunately (even down to the twist-in-the-end, the incompetent cops and the mentally retarded and homicidal groundskeeper),and one that leaves me with a whole mess of questions for the director and the scriptwriter – the edited highlights being: 1. When our intrepid hero with a jaw Bruce Campbell would kill for falls through the basement floor, he's up to his eyeballs in what appears to be quicklime. Why? And who the hell keeps a 6 foot pool of quicklime in their sub-basement?! 2. Who the fuck is the magotty-faced motherfucker who turns up at the end of the film? (No spoiler, kids, he's on the back cover of the disc). 3. What exactly was the point of the extremely irritating hitch-hiker, and why did people keep giving the cock-stain a lift? Was he there just to increase the body count? Admittedly, I was very happy when he finally got offed. 4. What was the explanation for the spirits communicating through the ham radio? I didn't buy the precognition story – rather a lame throwaway in and of itself, by the way. 5. The embarrassing "twist" ending. Why? For God's sake, why?!
Nothing to write home about, considering it's full-frame and looks rather flat. It claims to be re-mastered, but the words "lovingly" and "with great care and attention to detail" don't exactly spring readily to mind.
You have the choice to watch this shoddy clap-trap in either English or un-subtitled German. Again, despite some nice moments in the rather good score, and some pleasantly creepy sound effects, nothing special here. And the guy doing the ADR should be shot.
Extra Features
Released in different covers (the one I watched was cover A, and in my opinion, the better of the two on offer) in an unusual style of case – a limited release of 666 apparently. Ooooh, spooky! Besides that, the original US trailer which TOTALLY spoils the ending and shows most of the reasons we're here: the death scenes of almost every character, albeit in a truncated form. There are 2 other bits where you can listen to extracts of the score with a still of cover A or B on the screen. Riveting.
The Verdict
Best avoided. Lethargic in pace, trite in action, appalling in acting and script, Ghosthouse made me, as a fan of Lenzi's films, wince. I love his cannibal and crime films, but this unholy mess simply didn't cut it. Bearing in mind the expectation based on his other films, this was like sitting down to a meal expecting a Mexican pizza and beer, and instead getting a green salad and a glass of water.
Movie Score
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