Posted: 10/09/2004

 

Ghosthouse

(1988)

by Barry Meyer



Death holds the mortgage, and if you move in, there’ll be Hell to pay! From Midnight Video.


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Ghosthouse is an Italian/American produced creepier about a little girl who becomes possessed by an evil clown doll which was stolen by her undertaker father from a dead child. Driven into madness by this vile spirit, the pretty young girl violently kills her cat and then turns on her parents with a real sharp knife. Twenty years later a young ham radio aficionado picks up a strange transmission. He’s convinced that he’s overheard an actual murder over the airwaves and persuades his hot Italian girlfriend to help him investigate. They track down the coordinates of the transmission, winding up in the attic of an old house on the New England coast. There they find that the radio in question belongs to a bunch of roving teenagers camping out at the abandoned house, who tell them about some strange caretaker who tried to chase them out. Soon, the kids find that the house is being haunted by the strange little girl and her freaky clown doll, and they start getting knocked off, one by one, by an anonymous bony-hand killer.

Ghosthouse is directed by splatter-horror guru Umberto Lenzi under the pseudonym Humphrey Humbert — and it’s no wonder why. His name seems out of place on this Friday the 13th teen-oriented slasher/haunted house knock-off, seeing that the guy cut his teeth (sorry) on such intestine-strewn cannibal classic bloodbaths as Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive. But, as weak as this teen tome is, Ghosthouse fares much better than many of the slasher flicks that littered the big and small screens of the era.

Lenzi does well by creating a genuinely creepy atmosphere, especially in the scenes involving the little girl and her clown doll, but all good work is nearly dismantled by some of the most amateurish acting I’ve seen outside of the last dozen or so no-budget straight-to-video indie splatter flicks I’ve seen. I don’t know how well versed Lenzi is in the English language, or if there were some cavernous gap between the cultures, but I can only guess that the piss-poor performances were due to the idea that Lenzi couldn’t tell what in the hell his actors were doing or saying. I know that the genre of spook flicks is chock full of hammy acting, but this job takes the cake. At times it was akin to watching an Elementary school play, it got so bad. Clearly, it’s not the best horror flick around, but it does keep your interest for the duration of the 95 minute running time.

If you’ve never seen an Umberto Lenzi film, be advised that this is not the best showcase for his fantastic bloody talents. Go see his cannibal flicks for that. For a good Friday night popcorn flick, though — Ghosthouse will do you fine.

Barry Meyer is a writer living out Jersey way.



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