CLOWNHOUSE - US video cover

4 stars   
"Death holds the mortgage, and if you move in...there'll be Hell to pay"

directed by: Umberto Lenzi (as Humphrey Humbert)
starring: Lara Wendel, Greg Scott, Mary Sellers, Ron Houck, Martin Jay, Kate Silver, Donald O'Brien (I), Kristen Fougerousse, Willy M. Moon, Susan Muller, Alain Smith, William J. Devany, Ralph Morse, Robert Champagne, Hernest Mc. Kimnoro

choice dialogue:

"“All the circuits just went haywire. And then all of a sudden I heard this voice calling for help. And then a terrible scream. I mean, a really terrible scream”
“Who was it?”
“I don’t know, but whoever it was, he sounded really scared to death.”
“I’m starving, I’m going to get some chili.”

-the disturbed ham radio operator explaining the night’s events to his clueless, but hungry, girlfriend!

slash with panache?

[ review by the Blue Iris]

I came across this bizarre little slasher by accident. Where else would you get such an hysterically cheesy (and poorly worded) tagline? Choice dialogue abounds in this supernatural slasher directed by “Humphrey Humbert”. Don’t let the geeky American name fool you though. It’s our old friend Umberto Lenzi as I discovered when I checked the IMDb for more info. Still, right away I knew this had to be an Italian flick--the stilted and surreal dialogue, the synth music, the no discernible story whatsoever...Scientists from around the world have attempted, using sophisticated measurement devices, to detect any discernible plotline in an Italian horror film. They’re still looking.

Spooky goings on in the Ghosthouse ...

The movie starts off well if not completely coherently. There’s an old house and we get to see what happened in it 20 years ago, ala BOOGEYMAN, HALLOWEEN, etc. Set to this strange, ominous organ music with bizarre chanting with it, we see what appears to be a little girl killing her parents after offing the family cat. Or maybe it was a neighbors cat. We don’t even know if this is the girl’s house. Who needs details when there is blood to be spilt! Someone, either the girl or this creepy, and I mean CREEPY, clown doll she carries at all times actually kills the man and woman. The guy gets an ax crashing down onto his skull in full color and view, and the woman gets a knife to the throat. But because the guy sees lightbulbs start getting bigger and then exploding before he gets axed to death, we know we’re not dealing with a typical slasher.

So after the “20 Years Later” caption and no further explanations, we get to meet the real hero of our movie, Paul. And because 20 years later to this movie means 1987, the cheese whiz starts getting spread VERY thick. Now, maybe I missed this fad, but apparently it was very hip to work ham radios, as Paul is shown doing. He’s talking to someone on a ham radio, while wearing a “hip” ensemble featuring the skinny tie and blazer with the sleeves rolled up look so popular back then if you were in Huey Lewis and the News. Then, to show just how “modern” and “with it” this movie is, he talks about someone he knows dating Simon LeBon from Duran Duran. I’m definitely starting to feel the Reflex here now...the GAG reflex! Then to really put this over the top into classic cheese territory, he talks some nonsense about which actress is more popular in Denver-Kim Basinger (which is mispronounces as “Bah-singer”) or Kelly LeBrock. I swear I am not making any of this up. Paul himself looks like Vince Vaughan with a bad mullet.

The awful noise! For God's sake turn off that Duran Duran tape! For the love of God!!!

This is all side splitting but unfortunately, the movie starts off confusing as hell because the filmmakers just decide to drop us, the audience, somewhere in the midst of the action and we’re just supposed to catch up. But bear with it, it’s just getting started.

Essentially, the ploy here is that Paul the mullet-headed hero, picks up voices on his ham radio. When he thinks he hears a murder over the airwaves, he and his chili-obsessed girlfriend Martha hit the road to find out what’s going on. The girlfriend’s thick Italian accent was quite hard to interpret, leading me to hear such lines as “Is it much feather?” while they were hunting down the radio signal. Once he traces the radio waves to an old abandoned house with “an evil aura” according to girlfriend helpfully, we get to meet the other people who are going to die numerous ways. Don’t worry about their names. It won’t make any more an impression on you than the actors will.

And they say an 80's fashion revival is upon us - be afraid!

But here’s where the film uses the ham radio device effectively, if not at all coherently. Paul plays Jim, one of the new people they meet at the house, the tape he made of the voice screaming in terror. It’s Jim’s voice, but Jim insists he’s never recorded it or seen the ham radio inside the attic of the house. So now the mystery starts to build. Is Jim playing some kind of joke or is the radio receiving transmissions that haven’t occurred yet? Either way, it’s a very cool twist. As they all split up to solve the mystery, they start dropping like flies and the director has some fun scaring the audience quite well.

Spooky and cheesy in equal measures (well, maybe a tad more of the former!)

Borrowing VERY heavily from SUPERSTITION and even THE SHINING, GHOSTHOUSE is long on style and gore, low on plot and character development. But since when have the Italian horror directors worried about what was lacking when there is always so much of everything else? And how can you go wrong with an evil clown doll thrown in for good measure. Overall I highly recommend GHOSTHOUSE. I would get rid of the ham radio first.

The blue iris' review is right on the money, as usual! Lenzi, the man who churned out a legion of cheddary gialli in the 70's; who gave birth to the funniest horror movie - ever - the wonderful CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD (1980), (and the same year's trashy jungle shocker, CANNIBAL FEROX (aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY), did what dear old Fulci did with many of his gothic horror films and set his movie stateside.

Grand guginol, 80's style - yeah.

GHOSTHOUSE is one of those films which is so bad, so divinely trashy, that it gives me a warm glow just thinking about it. Everything, from the stroppy teenage girl with a face like a slapped arse, to the ghostly bedroom vortex where the heroine finds herself besieged by swarming Easter bunny decorations, to the leads who'd make planks of wood look theatrical, to, well ... let's just say, if cheese is your dish of the day then there's plenty to get your teeth into here. Lenzi throws in the kitchen sink - every last genre trapping is there somewhere - gleefully grabbing tidbits from every horror film imaginable like a magpie on acid, and chucking 'em all into the pot; even, against all the odds, managing the odd scare here and there. A veritable feast, and no mistake.

And, to think, the sequel stars Linda Blair and David Hasslehoff - God help us all!


BODYCOUNT 9   bodycount!   female:2 / male:7

       1) Male has head split open with ax
       2) Female knifed in throat
       3) Male slashed in throat with flying fan blade
       4) Male brained with a hammer and shut into a coffin
       5) Female guillotined in half!
       6) Male found hanged
       7) Male burned alive in a subterranean acid bath and stabbed in back with hedge trimmers
       8) Male found dead (method unknown)
       9) Male splattered by bus