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Ghosthouse is a 1988 Italian haunted house flick written and directed by Umberto Lenzi under the amusing pseudonym of Humphrey Humbert. Lenzi is best known for the cult classic Cannibal Ferox which also goes by the name Make Them Die Slowly.
This oddball supernatural thriller opens in 1967 where funeral director Sam Baker (Alain Smith) has given his daughter Henrietta (Kristen Fougerousse) a creepy looking clown doll that was supposed to be buried with it’s owner. He locks the now strange behaving girl in the cellar for killing their cat with a pair of scissors and soon he and his wife (Susan Muller) are brutally murdered and the young girl dies locked away there. Still with me? The film jumps to 20 years later where HAM radio operator Paul (Greg Scott) and his girlfriend Martha (Lara Wendel) get a strange signal that they track back to the now abandoned Baker house. Joined by a group of people who are camped out by the house in an RV…don’t ask…they decide to investigate. Obviously, something evil lurks within the house and if malevolent entities, creepy clown dolls and ghostly dobermans don’t get them, the mentally unbalanced caretaker Valkos (Donald O’Brien) will.
This is not a good movie in the strict definition of the word, but I did have fun with Ghosthouse for the entertaining mess it is. The plot is nonsensical and all over the place. There is no reason ever given as to why Paul and Martha are contacted…and by HAM radio, no less. Also, once it quickly becomes obvious that there is nothing but danger and death in this creepy old house, why do these nimrods stay and continue to enter it…even when their numbers start to gruesomely dwindle? As for the backstory…what funeral director in his right mind would give his daughter a doll from a deceased child, especially a creepy one like this. And since no background is ever given on that child, we have no idea why such malevolent forces are so pissed and vengeful about it. Also, why does Henrietta…who died when she was about seven or eight years old in 1967…have a tomb that says she was born in 1933. That would make her 34 at the time of her death. I could go on and on about the plot holes, character illogic and delightful stupidity, but that would ruin a fun ‘so bad it’s good’ horror. Lenzi does manage a few creepy moments. There is a spooky score by Piero Montanari and Franco Delli Colli creates some nice atmospheric cinematography. Lenzi’s dialogue writer Sheila Goldberg needs to be left in a haunted house for her awful lines, though, they provide a lot of the chuckles, and the acting is as entertainingly bad as one might expect. The FX are amusingly cheesy, except for some nice gore, but there’s not as much bloodshed as I would expect from an Italian horror of this era.
I enjoyed this flick, but obviously for all the wrong reasons. The plot is entertainingly nonsensical, the dialogue and acting is laughably terrible and the FX are, for the most part, delightfully cheesy. There is some decent gore and Lenzi does manage some creepiness despite how silly and random his script is. Definitely a ‘so bad it’s good’ Italian horror that can be thoroughly enjoyed with the lights out and your pint glass kept full…and just try getting that annoying song that plays whenever the clown doll appears, out of your head!
3 creepy clown dolls.