Director Story – Humphrey Humbert [Umberto Lenzi], Screenplay – Cinthia Mc.Gavin, Dialogue – Sheila Goldberg, Photography – Franco Delli Colli, Music – Piero Montanari, Special Effects – Robert Gould, Dan Maklansky & Roland Park, Art Direction – Alexander Colby [Massimo Antonello Geleng]. Production Company – Filmirage.
Greg Scott (Paul Rogers), Lara Wendel (Martha), Ron Houck (Mark), Kate Silver (Tina Dalen), Mary Sellers (Susan), Martin Jay (Jim Dalen), Donald O’Brien (Valkos), Willy M. Moon (Pepe), William J. Devany (Lieutenant Ferguson), Kristen Fougerousse (Henriette Baker), Ralph Morse (Gaffey), Alain Smith (Sam Baker), Susan Muller (Mrs Baker)
Paul Rogers, a ham radio buff in Boston, picks up strange radio messages calling for help. Mystified, he and his girlfriend Martha set out to trace the signals. This leads them to an abandoned house in rural Massachusetts. Inside the house, they find another ham radio set up by Jim who is in the area with his sister Tina and some friends. Paul recognises the voice on the radio as Jim’s, although Jim has no explanation of how Paul was receiving messages from him. As they set out to investigate, a supernatural force in the house starts killing members of the group. They suspect the killer may be the imbecilic hick Valkos who is lurking around the area. As Paul digs deeper, he uncovers the story of the house’s previous owner, the mortician Sam Baker, who was known to steal trinkets from corpses. After Sam punished his daughter Henriette by locking her in the cellar in the dark, all of them were found killed.
The Italian horror film discovered the occult film with Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980). Not long after this came Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981), which gained enormous popularity in Italy and saw a great many imitators. At the same time, Lucio Fulci created a blend of zombies and occult horror in a number of films such as City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House By the Cemetery (1981). Also around this time, the US ghost story also underwent a major revival with The Amityville Horror (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), boht of which were big hits. All of these seemed to blend together in the cauldron of 1980s Italian exploitation cinema, which produced a series of bizarre hybrids riffing on these themes. (See Italian Cinema).
When released in Italy, The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead II (1987) were respectively titled La Casa and La Casa 2. In its original Italian title, Ghosthouse was called La Casa 3 (The House 3) and is directly intended (in the Italian at least) as a Mockbuster – posing as a fake sequel – to the Evil Dead films. The influence of Poltergeist also clearly casts a shadow on the film, particularly with the malevolent doll that is influencing the action.
Ghosthouse is essentially Poltergeist made with the sensibilities of a Lucio Fulci film. Thus it is a ghost story construed around a series of Splatter and Gore set-pieces. In the opening scene, parents Alan Smith and Susan Muller are killed – he gets an axe in the head, while she gets a piece of exploding glass impaled in one eye before a large knife slices into her throat that pushes through to impale her turned head to the wall. Elsewhere a spinning fan blade comes loose to slit Martin Jay’s throat; while Mary Sellers is sliced in two halves by a rocking horse. As with most Italian films of this era, the plotting is fairly minimal and mostly just stretches between the various gore set-pieces with nothing too much more complicated than that.
This was followed by two sequels – in Italy at least where they were named La Case 4 and La Casa 5. No connection was made between them in English-language release – where they were retitled Witchery/Witchcraft (Evil Encounters) (1988) and Beyond Darkness (1990).
Director Umberto Lenzi (1931-2017) had a prolific career between the 1950s and 90s, working in numerous Italian exploitation genres. His other genre films include:- the superhero film Kriminal (1966); the spy film The Spy Who Loved Flowers (1966); the gialloOrgasmo/Paranoia (1969); the gialloSo Beautiful, So Perverse (1969); the gialloAn Ideal Place to Kill/Oasis of Fear (1971); the cannibal film Deep River Savages/Man From Deep River (1972); the devil worship film Knife of Ice (1972); the gialloSeven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972), Spasmo (1974) and Eyeball (1975); the cannibal film Eaten Alive/The Emerald Jungle (1980); the zombie film Nightmare City (1980); the cannibal film Cannibal Ferox/Make Them Die Slowly (1981); the sword-and-sorcery film Iron Master (1986); the occult film Hell’s Gate (1989); the psycho film Hitcher in the Dark (1989); the slasher film Nightmare Beach (1989); and the occult film Demons 3/Black Demons (1991).