Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982) 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.
The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)

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.

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)
The script also misses the opportunity to make full use of the Japanese setting. At one point Laura buys some Noh masks but they play no further part in the story. The old priest does put in another appearance but again there is no real attempt to make this a truly Japanese ghost story.

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 House Where Evil Dwells (1982)
I’m a great believer in the principle that you don’t need elaborate social effects in a horror movie, and especially in a ghost movie. The Uninvited, The Haunting and The Innocents were all great ghost movies without  fancy special effects while the Japanese made similarly fine ghost movies like Immortal Love and The Snake Woman's Curse without technical wizardry. But the special effects in The House Where Evil Dwells are crude and clumsy and this combined with the unimaginative writing and unexciting cinematography dooms the movie.

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.

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)
There’s plenty of gore and plenty of nudity, which just serves to show that no amount of gore and nudity will make a dull film any less dull. It should have been called The Film Where Boredom Dwells.

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

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