Ghosthouse Blu-ray Review

Italian director Umberto Lenzi heads this cult haunted house mystery filled with blood

Italian horror movies have a small but devoted following. The first two Evil Dead movies were so popular in Italy back in the 1980s that two unrelated movies were christened as La Casa 3 and La Casa 4 to capitalize on their success. Ghosthouse was helmed by Italian director Umberto Lenzi of Nightmare City and Cannibal Ferox fame. The Italian-made horror film is the kind of movie that once littered VHS rental stores as cheap, disposable entertainment meant for the video crowd. No amount of gruesome scenes can save Ghosthouse from its haphazard acting performances and incoherent story elements.

Paul (Greg Scott) and Martha (Lara Wendel) are a young couple living in Boston. Paul is a ham radio operator and hears a chilling death cry over it. The young couple trace the source of the call back to a dilapidated haunted-house. The house is now abandoned but twenty years ago a terrible series of murders occurred in it. The couple meet Jim and his friends camping out at the abandoned house. Throw in a creepy girl as a ghost and her over-sized clown doll into the festivities, it is not long before the bodies start piling up in Ghosthouse. Everything then proceeds in orderly fashion according to formula.

The incoherent plot is mostly an excuse to bridge the gruesome deaths together.

The movie is not afraid of pushing the various death scenes to their extreme in that grand Italian horror tradition. This film is dripping in blood from its opening moments. A young teen girl is chopped completely in half. The incoherent plot is mostly an excuse to bridge the gruesome deaths together. A human caretaker shows up almost out of nowhere, a plot device that quickly becomes an excuse for him to rampage and kill anyone he crosses.

The ghost child is effectively creepy with her doll always along for the ride. If the rest of the film worked nearly as well, it would be far more entertaining. With the exception of Greg Scott as Paul, it is largely amateur hour for the acting performances. German actress Lara Wendel is terrible as Martha. Having played a role in Tenebre, her screeching delivery here is distracting. It doesn’t help the situation that it appears most of her lines have been badly dubbed. The other characters are more tolerable if only because they get less screen time.

There probably is an audience for Ghosthouse but I think more will enjoy it as something to mock in contempt. The plot takes the standard template of a haunted-house formula and throws in everything it can to stretch out its 94 long minutes. I guess it has some kitsch value for those that enjoy horribly overblown Eighties’ hairstyles and tacky musical scores. With no big stars to latch onto during Ghosthouse, it becomes a tedious viewing experience once you get over the “shocking” death scenes.

Movie★★☆☆☆

 

House ghost? Ghost house. @ 52:40

Scream Factory provides Ghosthouse in a double-feature with Witchery on a single BD-50. The 94-minute main feature is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1, a common framing for a European production from the era. The 1080P video is sourced from stable film elements. This appears to be an Italian-made film transfer likely struck some years ago. If one has followed the horror scene for any number of years, that usually doesn’t portend good things. Ghosthouse is no exception. The overly clean video is mostly devoid of actual resolution, looking closer at times to a great DVD.

The low-budget horror film has fairly crisp cinematography but the dated telecine transfer used here that serves as the HD master is unusually smooth. High-frequency detail is almost completely rolled off, leaving a soft film transfer. Very little of the original grain structure remains intact and some of it appears frozen.

The film elements are in surprisingly clean condition. There isn’t a hint of film damage in the nearly flawless video. A consistent contrast is probably the older transfer’s best trait. Color saturation is a little dark but looks fairly decent. Black levels aren’t perfect but never really get in the way of the video’s overall clarity. The AVC video encode is entirely transparent to the master without introducing artifacts. There is a distinct lack of noise in this presentation.

I don’t think we can complain too much about how this older telecine transfer from Italy turned out. Ghosthouse could look better with a modern film transfer but the chances of that happening are slim and none. The video quality is acceptable if you aren’t picky about a film-like appearance.

Video ★★☆☆☆

We get Ghosthouse’s soundtrack in 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio. The lossless encoding of Ghosthouse’s mono mix is mastered very loudly, a hint of hiss is audible in some scenes. Italian productions were often the victim of poor recording fidelity since most of their soundtracks were dubbed by the actors in post. The low-budge nature of Ghosthouse shines through most in its less than stellar musical score. A remnant of the Eighties with its overblown synthesizer sound and dated musical ideas, it actively works against the film’s entertainment value. This soundtrack won’t be anyone’s idea of resounding sound quality and it has even less musical value.

Scream Factory has provided optional English SDH subtitles. They display in a white font.

Audio★★☆☆☆

This double-feature release includes trailers for each movie. Scream Factory does provide stills and art on the reverse inside cover.

Ghosthouse Trailer (02:53 in HD)

Witchery Trailer (03:01 in HD)

Extras ★☆☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.