Thursday, July 18, 2013

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK - GHOSTHOUSE (1988) or Poltergeist meets Scooby Doo

Contributor Jude Felton and I get to hangout on a somewhat regular basis at 35mm screenings. It's always great to get his take on some fairly obscure films. Ghosthouse is one of those. (Also note.. Jude is a House by the Cemetery addict... no internvention necessary).

Ghosthouse (1988) City showcased what was possibly the first case of running zombies…possibly. As well as these cherubs, he was also the director of the somewhat overlooked Giallo flick, Spasmo, back in 1974, along with about 60 other movies, of which I will not be listing. However, it is 1988’s Ghosthouse that is the subject here, and what a little beauty it is too.

Before I delve into the film itself, I really should make mention of the Italians’ love of dodgy film titles. In just the same way that Fulci’s Zombie was marketed as Zombi 2, due to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead being known as Zombi in Italy, Ghosthouse was released as La Casa 3. Why? Because Evil Dead and The Evil Dead 2 were known as La Casa and La Casa 2, so why the hell not make some money off the back of those films? Incidentally, Ghosthouse, or La Casa 3, was also followed by La Casa 4 (Witchery or Witchcraft), which was also known as Ghosthouse 2 in the UK, and La Casa 5 (Beyond Darkness), none of which have any relationship to each other, to the best of my knowledge. Blame Joe D’Amato, if you want to blame anyone, as he produced them all, and in the process confused everyone.

Back to Ghosthouse though, as I’ll refer to it as from here on in, and the first thing that struck me about the film was the striking artwork. I recall seeing the vhs release from Colourbox in the local video store back in the UK, and thought it was terrific (and still do). It’s the same artwork that has appeared on many of the releases of this film, and it absolutely rocks. Steer clear of the shitty Vipco release, which as was often the case has no artwork, just lettering. Actually, Vipco eventually released most of their movies with the bland cover and one with artwork. Either way, both are shite and not really worth your time, unless you’re completest.

The film itself could best be described, by me anyway, as Poltergeist meets Scooby Doo (without that shitball Scrappy Doo), as a group of pesky kids all arrive at the same abandoned old mansion when they respond to a radio broadcast. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Okay, so there’s a creepy girl, a creepier clown and even creepier music, some cool gore, shitty 80s fashion, prehistoric computers (which are the forefront of technology in this), very suspect dialogue and crap acting.

In fact you might say that Ghosthouse was, or is, a bad film. Well, I won’t argue with you if you say that, because for all intents and purposes it is. However, it is also damned good fun, filled to the brim with great cheese, surprising violence and one of the most underrated scare scores you’ll ever hear. Believe me, when you here the theme you’ll have the hairs on your neck sticking up. Unless of course you wax your neck, and then you’re just weird anyway.

I love Ghosthouse for many of the same reasons I adore Fulci’s House by the Cemetery; there are a lot of shite elements to both films, but there are also some genuinely well-crafted scenes, and of course the gore. Now, I wouldn’t put this in the same category as House, as to how I feel about it, because I have a sordid affair going on with Fulci’s movie, whereas Lenzi’s is just a hot fling on the side. Still, this is a thoroughly underrated gem of a turd. Yes, there is a lot wrong with it, but when you compare Ghosthouse to some of the crap that’s churned out today, it’s like night and day. For a start, this actually looks like a film and is remarkably well-shot; probably because unlike today it was shot on film. Fuck, someone get a 35mm print of this fucker and screen it near me. Please? Pretty please? Do it! Umberto Lenzi is often derided as a director, and whilst Ghosthouse isn’t especially original, it is a charming little movie and you can always use a little late 80s’ cheese in your life. He wasn’t just about the gore and sleaze, well okay maybe he was, but this shows his talents in a different light.

Right, I’m off to give Scrappy a beating and then it’s to the Mystery Machine and some pesky meddlin’, all set to an incredibly creepy soundtrack coupled with some atrociously funny dialogue.


JUDE FELTON of the Lair of Filth: "Horror and the darker side of cinema is, and will always be, my passion and that will be reflected by the majority of the news and reviews here. That being said I embrace all good cinema and will be including news and reviews for movies, television, books and music from any genre. Mainstream, obscure, feature length or a short, they're all open to my ramblings. Originally from the UK, I now reside in the U.S. I also contribute reviews for Shock Horror magazine ( I have also had a review, with more to come hopefully, published in Ultra Violent magazine. "

Make sure to stop by Jude's site The Lair of Filth and take in his amazing review style and has been nominated for a Rondo Hatton at least once by yours truly You can also find him in HorrorHound magazine which is balls out awesome. 

1 comment:

  1. Great write up. Always loved this movie, I wish I still had my VHS copy.