With this Double Feature disc, SCREAM Factory releases a pair of Italian oddities. In their native Italy, GHOSTHOUSE and WITCHERY are two films that gained much success upon their release. However this was mostly attributed to some clever marketing by Producer Joe D'Mato, who opted to retitled the films for their Italian release. Hoping to capitalize on the success of both EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2 - both which took on the titles of CASA, and CASA 2 in Italy, D'Amato retitled his films, CASA 3 and CASA 4, making them appear as though they were part of a series of films. The strategy seems to have worked, as the "CASA series" continues to be well known among most Horror fans.
GHOSTHOUSE - 1988 - Directed by Humphrey Humbert (Umberto Linzi) -
The double feature kicks off with GHOSTHOUSE. The film begins in May of 1967, in Massachusetts. It's Henrietta's Birthday, and as a gift, her father, Sam Baker, a funeral Director, gives her a neat looking clown doll. Unfortunately however, a short time later, Sam, his wife, as well as little Henrietta, all end up dead inside their home. Fast forward to 20 years after the tragedy, and we are now in the present day. The film's main characters become couple, Martha and Paul. Martha is coming upon college and still hopes to score a scholarship, while Paul is a HAM radio enthusiast. It is during one night of exploring radio frequencies that he picks up something a little strange on the other end. He hears what appears to be someone who is asking for help. The next afternoon, he alerts Martha to his findings, and when the two of them, again hear similar pleas for help emitting from the radio, they both decide to track down the location of where the messages are coming from. Using a map, they are able to pinpoint the location and soon hit the road. The map eventually leads them to that imposing old house in which the Baker family were killed some 20 years earlier. Old and isolated, the house appears to be empty, but it doesn't take long for Paul and Martha to discover that the house is anything but. Strange and deadly things begin to occur, even more so when the house attracts even more guests in the form of a mix of oblivious teens. The occurrences trouble Paul, who does some digging into the past, finds that the house in question seems to be haunted by the ghost of Henrietta, who is still in possession of her clown doll, and that the doll is more than a simple toy. It is something of sinister evil.
1988's GHOSTHOUSE, Directed by Itallian Director Umberto Linzi, under the name of "Humphrey Humbert", is one of those films that you discover, only to find that is criminally underrated and under appreciated. I for one, love the film, which is the main reason that I could not wait to receive this double feature disc. On the Internet Movie Database, the film currently has a low rating of 4.9/10, but don't let that fool you. I personally feel that this film is incredibly entertaining.
GHOSTHOUSE is another one of those films that I call an "Americanized" Italian Horror films. To explain : While most of the film's cast and crew are, indeed Italian, it's obvious that the filmmakers want to pass the film off as being more "American", if you will. The film, was set, and even filmed in the United States(Massachusetts), and they go as far as having the specific cast members, who aren't American, give their best try at, at least pretending to be. While it may seem strange to the more causal viewer, I happen to love the faux-American vibe of these type of films. Two more film's that come straight to mind, that are similar, are THE VISITOR, and another film helmed by Lenzi, HITCHER IN THE DARK. Both films are as equally as fun as this one.
However, back to GHOSTHOUSE, which is a strange blend of Italian Giallo, with North American Slasher and Supernatural Horror. On paper, it may seem like a rather odd mix-up, but on screen, things add up to create a silly good time, just as long as you go into it with an open mind, and are prepared to suspend disbelief for about an hour and a half. In the film, the gore is way over the top, and a good amount of the acting by the cast is exaggerated, but somehow it all works, as it is all housed(no pun intended) within an atmospheric environment, that is genuinely creepy. Not to mention that at the film's center is the equally creepy clown doll, and the ominous, indiscernible nursery rhyme which accompanies it. When you hear the rhyme, you just know that something bad is about to happen. The filmmakers do a great job of singling out the rhyme as the doll's calling card. The rhyme is just as memorable as the doll itself.
I really like GHOSTHOUSE, and would probably consider the film one of my favorite Horror movies. No, it's not a technically outstanding film by any means, however, there are many things to be found within, that make this one a keeper. Having, until now, only been available on VHS and cheaply made bootleg DVDs here in the states, I am glad that SCREAM FACTORY will be releasing this film to a much wider audience on Blu-Ray.
The Blu-Ray, as far as technical aspects go, presents the film in true anamorphic widescreen(which is a first for the film, as far as I know.), and the film both looks and sounds great. So if you haven't seen it, or even if you have, i'd imagine that there's no better way to watch this film, than this particular release.
Overall Rating : 7.5/10
WITCHERY - 1988 - Directed by Fabrizio Laurenti -
WITCHERY sets the Horror stage at a motel which sits on a supposed private island just off the coast of Massachusetts. Already there is novelist Leslie and her boyfriend Gary, a photographer. They are there to do research for Leslie's next book, which centers around witchcraft. Eventually also coming to the island, is the wealthy Brooks family, which includes the pregnant Jane(Linda Blair). They have come to the motel as potential buyers of the seemingly abandoned, and rundown hotel. They initially have interest in potentially converting the old place into an upscale country club. However when the hotel fails to meet the high standards of the matriarch, Rose, the family decides to leave the island. But when their boat somehow disappears, and with a violent storm brewing, the family, and everyone else is forced to stay on the island overnight. They all head back in for the night, and get rather cozy. However as the night progresses, it would appear that the old hotel, isn't so "abandoned" after all. As it turns out, a former Actress, who's also a witch, has had a residency there for years. In fact, she has brought all of them to the hotel as part of an elaborate plan. As fate would have it, a few of the hotel's"guests" posess the certain attributes that the witch, known only as the "Woman in Black" needs to carry out an ancient Satanic ritual.
In the very same year, D'Amato followed up GHOSTHOUSE, with WITCHERY. A film, aside from being retitled CASA 4, had other titles as well. Also known as GHOSTHOUSE 2, WITCHCRAFT : EVIL ENCOUNTERS and WITCHCRAFT : THE RETURN OF THE EXORCIST(Which was obviously an attempt to capitalize on the success of THE EXORCIST, as well as Linda Blair's involvement), the film was a bit more ambitious than GHOSTHOUSE. In addition to being influenced by American Horrors, as was GHOSTHOUSE, WITCHERY attempted to be far more inventive in its storytelling. Not only did this film boast the casting of a couple of known stars in Hasselhoff and Blair, it was a lot more explorative, almost in an experimental way as it interpreted its version of witchcraft and satanism. Unfortunately though, although the whole idea behind the story is cool, in the hands of the then, first time Director, Fabrizio Laurenti (under the pseudonym, Martin Newlin), it ended up being a misguided mess. The overall flow of WITCHERY is just all over the place. If there's one thing that WITCHERY does have going for it, it's the gore. But it's just too bad that there's little else to support the various scenes of torture. The film even goes as far as to have the witch, "The Lady in Black", played by Hildegard Knef, explain something about "Three Doors of Torture", to make things more interesting, but all that does is make the film more confusing for the viewer. Some elements of the film are just so poorly executed that they just don't make any sense. Things become so dull over time, that i'd imagine that most viewers wouldn't be bothered with trying to figure things out anyway.
Unlike GHOSTHOUSE, WITCHERY actually received an individual DVD release(probably due to its genre "star power"). And i'm not really happy to say that I was one of those who bought it. Yes, I purchased the DVD, without seeing the film first, prior. That was obviously a big mistake on my part. I am a fan of Linda Blair, especially in her earlier roles, so I took a chance on this film, and it just did not pay off. Although the film does have a nice atmosphere and idea, it was unfortunately handed to a Director who just didn't know what to do with it, I feel that, had it been given to a more experienced Director, WITCHERY could have possibly been a much better film.
Overall Rating : 2/10