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Home | Film Reviews | Film Review: Ghosthouse (1988)

Film Review: Ghosthouse (1988)

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Vivid Visions of a small girl and her malicious clown doll haunt the recent inhabitants of a creepy old house. Is doom and death the order of the day ?


Once , when I was just a small angelic girl and not the trashy tramp who stands here today , I came down with on helluva flu. The doctors suggested I take a large dose of Ny-Quil and call it a day, I’d eventually get over it. Well , once I was safe in the comfort of my own home , I popped the top off that Ny-Quil like there was no tomorrow and downed half the bottle in record time. That night, as I lay i bed , I began to see people walking about, shapes and shadows of people moving in and out of my room creating this strange story in my head. It was awesome!

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That is my idea of a fever dream , a word that is thrown around a lot in the horror community when in reference to obscure films that are hard to pin down narrative wise , and it’s a feeling that I have been trying my best to recapture ever since. Some directors have accomplished the fever dream on film with flawless execution ; Jean Rollins ( the master of celluloid nightmares ) , Lucio Fulci ( another master of the vivid and violent hallucination ) , Ulli Lomell ( if only for his vision of The Boogeyman ) , and of course Umberto Lenzi ( the king of melding bad films into visions of nightmares and lucid dreaming). Umberto Lenzi has undoubtedly created some of cinema’s trashiest and most over the top ” fever dream ” films. As luck would have it the very film I watched that trippy night on Ny Quil was Umberto Lenzi’s Ghosthouse ( La Casa 3), to this very day it remains one of my top 10 favorite films and a true classic in the mind f*ck category of the genre.

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Ghosthouse begins , as most films in the Italian slasher genre often do , set 20 years in the past. A strange young girl mutilates and kills a cat on her birthday which in turn causes her father to flip out an lock her in the basement along with her clown doll he recently stole from a crypt ( In a morbid and of course fun way the open reminded me of the opening to Pieces THE best slasher film ever made ) . We flash forward several years and meet our main cast of characters , Paul and Martha , as they pick up a strange demonic chanting signal on their radio. Paul is able to use his computer to track down the signal to a spooky old house where 20 years earlier 2 murders took place after the young girl was locked away by her father. Paul and Martha decide to check out the signal and explore its origins , along with a few other people they become deeper and deeper entrenched into the mysterious house and the evils that lurks therein.

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It’s important to remember that this is an Italian take on the Poltergeist/Amityville Horror films that were popular in the late 80’s , so any and all cohesiveness it tossed out the window. Umberto Lenzi is the master of creating nightmarish images that stick on the human psyche but don;t expect to know exactly what is going on at all times. Monster dogs ; exploding light bulbs ; severed heads ; nightmare on elm street inspired melting floors ; a random skull faced slasher covered in maggots, this all comes bubbling to the surface with wanton abandon in typical Lenzi style. Umberto uses his camera as an almost spectral other worldly presence moving in and out of a fog drenched landscape that is littered with dangers lurking around every corner. Is there any logic to any of the proceedings set forth my Mr. Lenzi ? Yes actually , underneath all the nightmarish images and rolling tendrils of fog there is a fairly straightforward tale of revenge from beyond the grave with a little possession thrown in for kicks. The ending does have a bit of a jolt twister , don’t worry I won’t spoil it for those of you out there who crave the undervalued and the strange , this is most assuredly one for you.


The performances are nothing that really stand out and most of the players have been dubbed. I have always assumed in the late 70’s and mid 80’s they had the same 3 male and female performers trapped in a room and forced to dub everything, and here you get the exact same over expressive and assertively male and female vocals. The acting really isn’t anything of notice as I said before but in a film like this that really isn’t the point , and the over the top dubbing adds to the other worldly feeling that lingers over the entire production.


Ghosthouse ( La Casa 3) , is the kind of film you know instantly if you will appreciate it or not, and you know who you are. The entire film is one big nightmarish trip into the surreal and unintentionally awful , and comes from a time and place where both can coexist as one fascinating entity. Maybe I make sense, or maybe I don’t. Maybe I am being meta in regards to the entire proceedings, or I could have just gotten into the cough syrup again. Who knows ? Either way , Mr. Lenzi has perfected the ” fever dream” format that so many have reached for. Intentional ? I seriously doubt it, but sincere and gorgeous none the less.

Ghosthouse is now available on bluray per Shout Factory

One comment

  1. Yeah sister, the cough syrup is the key, as is of course a morose fondness for the post-Poltergeist late 80s, by which time as you say, Lenzi was throwing up the entirety of every successful movie of the decade into a wild and wooly mix. I’m with you, cameras tracking through the fog and terrible blood effects are the perfect combination. Nice review too


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