Twenty years ago, a tragedy occured in this house. One night the father of the family who lived there heard the pet cat cry out, and went to investigate only to find that the animal had been killed in the bedroom of his daughter (Kristen Fougerousse) and that she was standing over the body holding a bloodied pair of scissors. He put two and two together and decided that she had attacked the cat, and told her she would be punished by staying alone in her bedroom in complete darkness. However, when he returned to his wife, even stranger things began to happen... things like an axe to his head.
If there's any horror movie which proves they don't have to make any sense whatsoever as long as they get those special effects sequences on film, it was Ghosthouse. The Evil Dead movies had been hits in Italy, and so the cash-ins were inevitable, so this was presented as a sequel - in its country of origin it was known as La Casa 3, as the Sam Raimi movies were known as La Casa and La Casa 2 - but it was more like a cross between the House movies, without the humour, and the Steven Spielberg production Poltergeist what with it taking the concept of the scary clown doll and running with it.
The clown doll is the prized possession of the little girl who keeps appearing to the characters; or is she the possession of it? Our Scooby-Doo style gang who descend upon the house of the title are assembled when a radio ham, Paul (Greg Scott) picks up a transmission from there which sounds like someone calling out, then screaming, then a woman screams, then a strange chant is heard. We do sort of find out what all this means later on, but not so much that it clears everything up as it becomes apparent soon after that everything going on in this film is purely for effect, with plot disposed with for a succession of "Boo!" moments.
Paul heads over to the house with his girlfriend Martha (Lara Wendel, much given to screaming herself), and on the way they pick up the world's most annoying hitchhiker who takes the unorthodox method of hitching a lift not by sticking his thumb out at the side of the road, but by standing in the middle and holding his hands out to force the car to stop. After getting up to such hijinks as frightening Martha with a plastic skeleton hand (well, she is easily frightened) and stealing five dollars from her, he gets out and we don't hear from him again until later on. In spite of it being run down and inhospitable, that house exerts a strange hold over the cast, as they can't stay away from the place.
This regardless of the fact that there's a crazed murderer (Donald O'Brien) wandering about for no good reason but to provide some shocks for when we are not watching action from the house. When the Scooby gang do enter the building - Paul and Martha are joined by a young brother and sister, along with their motorbike riding friend - they are subjected to a night of terror, or as much terror as a movie this cheesy can muster, with the apparition of the little girl popping up all over the shop, accompanied by the chanting clown doll. It's as if director Umberto Lenzi had a checklist of what he thought would be effectively spooky and made his way down it ticking the boxes until he reached the end of the movie. That's not to say Ghosthouse doesn't have its moments, as it is fairly eventful in its obliviously nutty fashion, but mediocrity takes over early on and doesn't let go. Music by Piero Montanari.
Prolific, workmanlike Italian director and writer who dabbled in most genres throughout his 40 year career. Started work as a film critic before making his directing debut in 1961 with the sea-faring adventure flick Queen of the Seas. The two decades years saw Lenzi churn out westerns, historical dramas, Bond-esquespy yarns and giallo thrillers among others.
It was his 1972 proto-cannibal film Deep River Savages that led to the best known phase of his career, with notorious gore-epics Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive and zombie shlocker Nightmare City quickly becoming favourites amongst fans of spaghetti splatter. Continued to plug away in the horror genre before retiring in 1996.