The House Where Evil Dwells is a ghost movie set in Japan and starring Susan George and Doug McClure - what could possibly go wrong with an idea like that? Unfortunately the answer to that question is - quite a lot.
Alex Curtis (McClure) is an American diplomat in Japan who finds a house to rent for his friends Ted (Edward Albert) and Laura Fletcher (Susan George). Unfortunately it’s a haunted house. Since Ted is into Japanese folklore Alex figures this is a good idea - it will provide him with material. It certainly does that.
In 1840 a samurai caught his wife in flagrante delicto with her lover and chopped them both up. Now their ghosts haunt the house, and history is destined to repeat itself as a romantic triangle develops between Alex, Ted and Laura. An old priest warns Ted that they should never have rented the house but Ted ignores the warning.
You pretty much know what is going to happen from this point on and the movie provides no surprises whatever.
This US-Japanese co-production was helmed by Kevin Connor. He made some pretty good low-budget movies so I’m inclined not to blame him too much for this one.
The biggest weakness here is Robert Suhosky’s screenplay. It’s all much too obvious. The ghosts take over the characters so there’s no opportunity to explore the psychology of the protagonists. If there’d been the slightest hint of an existing attraction between Alex and Laura, or of a tendency on Ted’s part towards jealousy and violence, in other words if the ghosts were making use of the characters’ own flaws there might have been scope for some interesting psychological exploration. But once the ghosts take them over the characters are mere puppets.
McClure is badly miscast and while Edward Albert tries hard he’s not terribly convincing. Susan George was incapable of giving a bad performance and she’s the only good thing in this movie. She also provides the only real erotic charge.
The scene with the ghostly killer crabs is not merely lame, it’s laughable and silly. A ghost story requires atmosphere, and this movie is sadly lacking in that department.
MGM’s DVD presentation is barebones but it’s a fine transfer. For some reason best known to themselves they include a fullframe transfer as well as a widescreen one