Director – Kevin Connor, Screenplay – Robert A. Sukosky, Based on the Novel by John Hardimann, Producer – Martin B. Cohen, Photography – Jacques Haitkin, Music – Ken Thorne, Special Effects – William Cruse, Production Design – Toshikaze Kano. Production Company – Cohen Features
Edward Albert (Ted Fletcher), Susan George (Laura Fletcher), Doug McClure (Alex Curtis), Amy Barrett (Amy Fletcher)
Writer Ted Fletcher travels to Japan to write a book, taking with him his wife Laura and their daughter Amy. Ted’s good friend Alex Curtis, who works for the American consulate, finds them a cottage in Kyoto. 140 years earlier in the cottage, a samurai killed his wife after finding her in bed with one of his students. The ghosts of the samurai, the wife and the lover now emerge to haunt them, the woman possessing Laura so that she can re-enact her doomed love affair over again.
This ghost story did little business when it came out. The House Where Evil Dwells was made by director Kevin Connor, the British director who had earlier made one of Amicus Pictures’ better horror anthologies, From Beyond the Grave (1974), and then a trilogy of Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations The Land That Time Forgot (1974), At the Earth’s Core (1976) and The People That Time Forgot (1977), along with the Burroughs-modelled Warlords of Atlantis (1978), all starring Doug McClure. Connor has subsequently been making US tv movies.
The novelty that the film offers to the standard ghost story is its Japanese setting. Here we get some nicely lyrical pictures of Japanese culture from a gaijin perspective. Alas, there is never anything particularly spooky or suspenseful about the film – the shocks that Kevin Connor generates are traditional and unexceptional. And when it comes to the manifestation of ghostly crabs chasing Amy Barrett through the garden, The House Where Evil Dwells slips into an irredeemable silliness. It is however boosted by the grim and fatalistic twist ending where we see the whole cycle has repeated itself over again.
As traditional Japanese kaidan eiga goes, The House Where Evil Dwells never holds a candle up to the real product itself does. For far better, more full-fledged outings into the Japanese ghost story see the likes of Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), Ghost Story of Yotsuya (1959), Kwaidan (1964), Illusion of Blood (1965), Empire of Passion (1978), Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (1990) or any of the modern efforts from Ring (1998) onwards.