Ghosthouse (1988)

I actually have no idea if Ghosthouse is a movie people love or hate (or simply have no opinion of), but if there is a “I liked it a lot” camp somewhere I’ll have to defer to them, if only because this crazy supernatural slasher proves the awesome coolness of ham radios.

The film opens ambiguously enough with a small family inside a creepy house, followed quickly by two brutal murders. The rest of Ghosthouse concentrates on Paul (Greg Scott), an amateur radio expert who overhears a creepy situation over the airwaves. After locating where the broadcast came from, he grabs his thickly accented girlfriend Martha (Laura Wendel) and heads to an area just outside of Boston. A group of teenagers are camping out near the house where the opening murders took place, and while they have set up a radio in the attic, they have yet to broadcast. Strangely enough, when they hear the tape Paul made of the murders, Mark (Ron Houck) recognizes his own voice but swears he never spoke those words. Oh, he’ll speak them soon enough. Things predictably go downhill from there.

Ghosthouse is a bit of mixed bag. It’s low budget and comes in at the end of the heyday of Italian splatter. The acting is marginal at best, with a few nice moments from Mary Sellers who plays Susan, and some of the interesting background actors (Robert Champagne, I’m looking at you!). On the upside, while the story is obviously slapdash, the premise and set-pieces are nicely done. The children’s lullaby that echoes throughout large chunks of the film is also captivating and unnerving.

Umberto Lenzi directed Ghosthouse under the pseudonym Humphrey Hubert, probably in an attempt to appeal to the dwindling American horror market of 1988. Shot in Massachusetts, eagle eye viewers will notice that the home bears a striking resemblance to the one Lucio Fulci used in his film House By The Cemetery (because it is). Named The Ellis House, it is located about an hour outside of Boston in a town called Scituate and is now the residence of the Scituate Arts Association, which might be creepier than the movie depending on the artwork on display.

The gore is light, and mostly saved for the beginning and ending, but I never found the film boring (although admittedly it can be quite perplexing). I’m also a sucker for a creepy doll, and I thought despite the lack of animatronic action, the weird little clown puppet worked at jangling the nerves. Ghosthouse reminded me of Paganini Horror, which is also all about a creepy house, and a lot confusion. I find these movies are always a little difficult to recommend because I know they are not for everyone, but if you like late 80s Italian horror, ramshackle houses and creepy killer marionettes, you should probably give Ghosthouse a spin.

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