From a time when you would think they were not making Italian teleporting killer zombie ghost movies comes 1988’s Ghosthouse. Ghosthouse is not a movie you would find nowadays unless you are like me determined to watch every cheesy 80s movie that got made. It did make its money back in its native Italy because in using the title La Casa 3 producer Joe D’Amato (Buried Alive) and director Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox) intentionally capitalized on the Italian titles for Evil Dead 1 and 2: you guessed it, La Casa 1 and 2. I understand that this movie was a staple of late night cable, as any movie with evil little kids and dolls is wont to be. I’m just glad I found it tonight. It’s my movie of the week!
Henriette was just a normal little girl…until her daddy gave her that doll! 20 years dead, Henriette and her creepy pointy-toothed three foot tall clown doll kill anyone who gets in or near their house, which by the way shares an exterior with the titular House By The Cemetery. Ham operator Paul, in the days before bandwidth, hears a creepy transmission, tapes it and has to track down the other radio operator using a PAPER MAP and MATH! But he does it and he and his girlfriend Martha head on out to the Ghosthouse. There they find brothers Mark and Jim and sister Tina on vacay with Mark’s motorcycle mama Susan; Jim has a ham radio set up in the abandoned house in whose yard they are camping out in an RV.
Was this a thing in the late 80s, to carry a Ham radio and camp in abandoned houses? Because there also is a very annoying hitchhiking teen with sticky fingers who comes along for the ride to hell too, having heard about the house as a good place to sleep. Somehow it hasn’t gotten the rep for being a place to die, but Jim is quick to believe something’s going on when he hears the tape of himself screaming for his life. A radio transmission, as it turns out, from the future.
I like a movie where nobody has to be convinced that there are supernatural doings afoot, except of course for those 80s stock characters the dumb yucky magic-blind adults. Can’t you hear Charlie Brown’s teacher telling the Peanuts kids that Linus fell into a pit of that old Italian horror movie magic potion, sulfuric acid while Lucy was vivisected at the waist by a falling piece of metal and the murderer is the creepy live elderly bum who is stalking them all?
I also like that we never know what or why the killer is, and that there is for no reason a huge tarantula in the OMG we’re stuck in a crypt in Italy or Massachusetts scene. Also a favorite of mine is “the haunted house is making the unplugged appliances run and hey look the ghost is on TV crying blood tears” theme in the film. Best of all, the ghosts move like people who have seen ghosts report them, there and then gone, not in stop motion.
This movie was a real surprise, and I’ve saved the best for last: every time the ghost is active, some awful nursery rhyme with backmasking plays to haunt your dreams forevermore whether you’re eight or thirty eight when you see this. Which you should do asap. But for now, here’s the poke-your-eardrums-out-with-a-knitting-needle theme song