Ghosthouse (1988) / Witchery (1988)
Director(s): Umberto Lenzi / Fabrizio Laurenti
Starring: Lara Wendel, Greg Scott, Mary Sellers, Ron Houck & Martin Jay / David Hasselhoff, Linda Blair, Catherine Hickland, Annie Ross & Hildegard Knef
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Released in their home country of Italy as part of the La Casa series, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, invites viewers to a ghostly pairing of terror. First up, Ghosthouse centers on a group of visitors exploring a deserted house with a dark past. Before long, the unsuspecting friends find themselves at the mercy of a disturbing little girl and her possessed clown doll. Next up, Witchery finds an assortment of people stranded on an island resort during a dangerous storm. With no contact to the mainland, an evil witch begins weaving her dark practices on the unwanted visitors. David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider), Linda Blair (The Exorcist), Catherine Hickland (One Life to Live), Annie Ross (Pump Up the Volume) and Hildegard Knef (Fedora) star.
From Director Umberto Lenzi (Spasmo, Cannibal Ferox) (using the pseudonym Humphrey Humbert), Ghosthouse opens on the deadly tragedy of a couple at the hands of their young daughter. 20 years later, Paul (Greg Scott) and his girlfriend Martha (Lara Wendel, Tenebre) receive a disturbing radio frequency that is traced back to the location of the murders, prompting the couple to investigate. Upon their arrival, Paul and Martha meet a group of vacationers who have made the abandoned house their temporary residence. As supernatural evidence becomes more apparent, the friends are haunted by the ghostly apparition of the murderous little girl and her demonic clown doll. Predominately consisting of first and only time performers, Ghosthouse suffers from laughable performances and eye-rolling dialogue that overshadows any intended sense of fear. In addition, while the group is confronted by a series of frightening elements including, a homicidal caretaker, a ferocious Doberman and a severed head in a washing machine, the film fails to use them to its narrative advantage. As the hauntings begin claiming victims, Paul and Martha rush to uncover the true history behind the house leading to an absurdly nonsensical ending. While its premise and intriguing poster art fail to live up to their full potential, Ghosthouse still retains a splash of fun rooted in its charmingly awful characters and bizarrely funky score that will viewers bopping their head instead of covering their eyes.
Utilizing its alternate Witchcraft (Evil Encounters) title, Witchery finds Leslie (Leslie Cumming), along with photographer boyfriend Gary (David Hasselhoff), investigating an abandoned island resort for her upcoming book on witchcraft. Shortly after, a family of prospective buyers for the property, including the pregnant Jane (Linda Blair), board the island just as the tide grows dangerous. Stranded, the two groups are forced to remain at the eerie location just as nightmarish visions and the arrival of an evil witch take hold. While the film tends to overcomplicate its simple plot in favor of more sinister sequences, Witchery excels with its murder set pieces including, a mouth being sewn shut, a neck puncture via stuffed swordfish and a grizzly crucification. Headlined by notable faces, Hasselhoff and Blair feel nearly wasted as the Knight Rider star spends the bulk of the runtime failing at devirginizing his girlfriend while, Blair is left to endlessly faint before a cash-in possession scene during the film’s fleeting moments. As the witch’s complicated process of being reincarnated comes full circle, Witchery’s attempts at plot development are too little, too late with its nightmarish imagery serving as the film’s true saving grace.
Scream Factory presents both Ghosthouse and Witchery with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.66:1 aspect ratios. Appearing slightly soft with occasional instances of waxy complexions, both films arrive free of any discernible scratches or scuffs making way for a remarkably clean picture. In addition, colors are pleasing while black levels are well-handled and visible in more dimly lit scenes. Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films project dialogue clearly with their respective scores and sound effects decently relayed but never overly impressive. Finally, special features include, a Ghosthouse Trailer (2:53) and a Witchery Trailer (3:01).
Continuing their pairing of appropriately themed fright flicks, Scream Factory treats fans to a generous helping of Italian horror with help from possessed clowns, witchcraft and a sexually frustrated Hoff. While Ghosthouse is a hilarious mess that can be appreciated for its unintentionally funny performances and lack of logic, Witchery ranks as the preferred feature with its death sequences outshining its more prominent cast members. Meanwhile, Scream Factory delivers both films with appreciable bumps in quality that surpass previous home video releases. Different strokes for different folks, Ghosthouse / Witchery may not be perfect but, both have their merits worth discovering.