Ghosthouse (1988) – Review

Many horror films of the 80s fall into the category of the “Dead Teenager” movie, where a group of young people will be stalked and killed by either a serial killer, a supernatural force or a combination of the two. “Let’s split up” is the catch phrase for these groups that practically embodies the principles of Darwinism. Ghosthouse (aka La Casa 3) is a movie that proves that Italians can churn out this type of horrific dreck just as good as the Americans can.

ghosthouse0

The movie begins with a prologue that takes place twenty years before the main story starts where we are introduced to Henrietta Baker (Kristen Fougerousse) a little girl in a white dress holding a creepy ass clown doll, and who on her birthday brutally murders her cat…for some reason.  We’re guessing evil reasons. Her dad (Alain Smith) is a tad upset with this and locks her in the dark cellar only to get an axe to the head for his troubles. Mrs. Baker (Susan Muller) gets killed by an exploding mirror followed by a slashed neck.  I guess she’s guilty by association?

dead dead“Dad, I’ve got to axe you a question.”

How did this little girl get these powers? Is it even her causing the deaths or is it the creepy clown doll? Throughout the film we see manifestations in the form of a Doberman pincher and a Grimm Reaper with no explanation as to why these particular beings are conjured. Sure when the film’s Scooby Gang show up, and start dying off, it’s discovered that Henrietta’s dad worked at a funeral home and had a thing for stealing from the dead, and that the clown doll was to be buried with one of his clients but instead he gave it to his little girl.

ghosthouse5But that does not explain this!

Director Umberto Lenzi, working under the pseudonym Humphrey Humbert, is not big on explanations or even plot. The films main leads are Paul Rogers (Greg Scott), a ham radio enthusiast, and his girlfriend Martha (Lara Wendel).  Paul is a little freaked out about a strange broadcast that he picked up that sounds like people being murdered. Because this is the 80s, and no one has a clue how computers work, Paul is somehow able to use his computer to trace the radio signal (even though it is no longer broadcasting) to a creepy house somewhere in New England. When they arrive at the abandoned house they discover a ham radio on one of the upper floors which turns out belongs to Jim Dalen (Martin Jay) who, along with his sister Tina (Kate Silver), are the ones whose voices Paul heard being murdered over the radio. This doesn’t seem to really alarm anyone.

dead idiots“I’m betting it was sunspots.”

Later when Tina comes across Jim’s bloody corpse, and screams just as the recording predicted, the remaining members of the group don’t even ponder the ramifications of messages from the future Note: To be fair neither does the director, as the why or wherefore of Paul’s radio picking up future murders is never explained or even addressed again. They do think to call the cops, but the local authorities have a rather laissez-faire attitude toward dead trespassers in a known haunted house.

police called“We got ourselves a 10-33 at the Baker Murder House…again.”

What follows is a collection of disjointed scenes where the idiots constantly go back into that house where they encounter; the ghost girl and her clown doll that occasionally sports sharp teeth, a phantom dog, exploding crockery, a severed head inside a washing machine, blood pouring out of faucets, and a crazed old coot who chases everyone around with a variety of gardening implements and tools. There are some gruesome scenes, but nothing remotely scary, and because every character in this movie is a complete moron there is no suspense when it comes to any of the “Will they survive?” moments, because we just don’t care.

dead teenagersThey even manage to accidentally kill one of their own.

The film brings up a lot of questions such as, “Why is the handyman running around murdering everyone?” “What was with that radio broadcast from the future?” “Who was the original owner of that clown doll?” The origin of the doll is something you’d think would be addressed at some point in the script, but it never is. When Paul learns that the doll was stolen from a corpse, and given to Henrietta, you’d think the next step would be to find out why that doll turned Henrietta evil. We know that the dad routinely stole from the dead, so does that mean every item out there that he stole is possessing some person with the power of evil?

Ghosthouse-1988-movie-Umberto-Lenzi-4Or does it only work on dolls blatantly ripped off from the movie Poltergeist?

Umberto Lenzi, who not only directed this thing but wrote it, goes for the “Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” school of filmmaking for this horror outing, and it really shows. Characters in this movie at no point act like rational let alone intelligent beings; they are simply cardboard characters marched around by an unfinished screenplay until it’s time for their death scene. The kills themselves are gruesome, as one expects in an Italian horror film, but nothing really to write home about. The acting is atrociously bad, and cannot be blamed completely on the equally terrible dubbing. Simply put this film is only good if you and your friends are in a good riffable mood, and you have plenty of alcohol handy.

henrietta“I’ll just wait here in case I’m needed for a sequel.”

Mike Brooks

Mike Brooks

Film grad who spends most his time trying to catch up on his "To Watch" pile of movies.