Monday, June 29, 2015

GHOSTHOUSE / WITCHERY DOUBLE FEATURE

GHOSTHOUSE (1988) / WITCHERY (1988) 
SCREAM FACTORY DOUBLE FEATURE 

Label: Scream Factory 

Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated I R
Duration: 94 Minutes I 96 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Umberto Lenzi I Fabrizio Laurenti
Cast: Ron Houck, Martin Jay, Kate Silver, Greg Scott, Lara Wendel, Mary Sellers I Hildegard Knef, Linda Blair, David Hasselhoff, Annie Ross, Catherine Hickland

GHOSTHOUSE (1988) 

Synopsis: Your tour of terror begins with Ghosthouse, in which a group of visitors to a seemingly-deserted home find themselves tormented by demonic spirits – including one particularly freaky little girl and her creepy clown companion. Soon, our hapless heroes find themselves powerless to conquer the evil of the Ghosthouse – where death holds the mortgage and if you move in… there'll be Hell to pay!

Italian horror movies are typically strange, somewhat surreal and usually a cheap knock-off of a then current popular American horror, and Ghosthouse comfortably falls into that category for sure. Directed by the infamous director Umbert Lenzi who brought us the vicious Cannibal Ferox and the outrageous zombie actioner Nightmare City, this time we find him up to something a bit more subtle and ghostly, okay, so maybe it's not so subtle, but it's not mean-spirited cannibalism or kung-fu zombies either. 


We begin with HAM radio operator Paul (Greg Scott) picking up on a creepy transmission of a man screaming followed by some eerie carnival music, afterward he and girlfriend Martha (Lara Wendel) head off in search of the transmissions origin, which brings them to a creepy old house in near Boston. While there they encounter Jim (Martin Jay), his sister Tina (Kate Silver), and their friends Mark (Ron Houck) and Susan (Mary Sellers) who just happen to be investigating the strange HAM radio transmission. I would be hard=pressed to think of another film so focused on HAM radio, it's a silly sort of set-up for a damn goofy tale of haunting, one that  might have made for a decent episode of Scooby-Doo.

The culprit behind the mystery is the angry spirit of a young girl and her creepy clown doll, obviously the writers had watched Poltergeist and knew that clowns were something worth exploiting, but they should have tried harder, the clown is pretty silly. There's a back story about the owner of a Mortuary who took the clown doll from a coffin, which leads to some possession and murder, and the death of the young girl. The gore is pretty decent and opens with a father finding his daughter in the basement with a pair of blood-soaked scissors, next to her is the corpse of the family cat. Of course the father is alarmed by this, but he doesn't have to worry long for just a few short moments later someone buries an ax into skull just before mommy dearest is stabbed through the neck, it's good stuff. 



The move certainly has its own brand of ghostly charm, full of creaking doors and breaking glass, a cheesy synth score, and plenty of horrifying screams. It's fun as the spirit of the evil little girl and her creepy clown companion murder the gathering of HAM radio enthusiasts, each time the warped carnival music chimes in before something awful happens. No, it's not a great film but certainly entertaining, limping along to the end on an atmosphere of goofy synth score and schlocky Italian camp. 

This is the third in a series of film known as La Casa, which were "sequels" to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 movie, which in Italy were marketed as the La Casa  and La Casa 2. Yet another example of the Italian penchant for cashing in on American movies even odder is that parts five and six in the La Casa series are House and House II.

WITCHERY (1988) 

Synopsis: Then, a new address brings new frights as the immortal David Hasselhoff and The Exorcist's Linda Blair turn up the terror in Witchery. When a terrible storm leaves a motley assortment of people stranded on an island resort, they soon find they have more to worry about than not packing rain gear! A horrible witch unleashes her wrath on the unwanted visitors – and no one is safe from her unquenchable thirst for death!

The sorta of sequel to Ghosthouse is a haunter from director Fabrizio Laurenti and is centered around Gary (David Hasselhoff, Knightrider) and girlfriend Linda (Catherine Hickland) whom arrive on an island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the paranormal activity at an abandoned resort hotel. Linda is writing a book on local witchcraft and hopes to capture the fabled "Witch Light" on camera, and investigate the decades old death of a suspected witch who lived on the island at one point, and it's connection to the suicide of an aged actress whom also lived on the island years later. 



They're not alone on the island, the Brooks family have arrived and hope to buy the property for a song turn it into a resort. They've brought with them their pregnant daughter Jane, played by Linda Blair (Savage Streets, The Exorcist) and a few business partners.  The night the group are collectively stranded on the island by a storm front, and they are picked-off one by one by the mysterious Lady in Black (Hildegard Knef), whom transports each victim through a portal to a cavernous netherworld where they are tortured and killed by witchy tormentors. 

The visual effect that makes-up the portal is hilariously bad, but the torture and murders are executed nicely, compared to Ghousthouse the gore is more creative and consistent. The gruesome scenes include a mouth being sewn shut, burned alive, an upside down crucufixtion, rope strangulation, a woman raped by a gnarly mouthed demon, and a stabbing through the neck by a mounted swordfish, the gorehounds who might have been disappointed by the a-side of this double-feature will most like appreciate the increased horror quotient. 


Of the two I would have to say this one is my favorite of the two films on the double feature, benefiting from a superior story and the one-two punch of Linda Blair and David Hasslehoff! There's a pretty great scene of the Hoff catching a mouthful of blood straight straight from a wound on someones neck, that right there is worth the rpice of the double-feature alone. 


Audio/Video: Both movies are presented on a single-disc Blu-ray from Scream Factory in 1080p HD widescreen framed at 1.66:1. They look pretty good considering both favor soft-focus cinematography which never translates well to HD in my opinion. Both appear a little on the soft side but colors look good, black levels are acceptable and the skin tones appear accurate. I give Witchery the slight upper hand in respect to the better transfer, but it's really a toss-up. Both movies have English DTS-HD 2.0 Mono audio tracks sound good, the dialogue, score and effects are nicely balanced and free of any noticeable hiss or distortion, optional English subtitles are provided. Extras are nearly non-existent except for a pair of trailers for the movies. I was hoping for an interview with Blair and/or Hasslehoff but it just wasn't in the cards this time. 

I have quite a fondness for the cheesy Scream Factory Double Feature Blu-rays which in my mind are carrying-on the cult and b-movie tradition of the MGM Midnite Movies series, many of which Scream have give HD upgrades. I hope this continues for a long time to come, there are still many American International Pictures/MGM titles I would love to see sweetened with a new 1`080p presentation. These two slices of Italian schlock are not classic haunters by any definition, but they are fun double-feature and well worth the money. Love seeing Scream Factory dip their toe into Italian horror, I hope they agree with the waters and take the full-on plunge and we see more Euro cult movies on the way. 3/5

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