There's nothing like finally catching up with a movie after searching it out for so many years -- except of course when the movie turns out to suck, like The House Where Evil Dwells does.
I remember reading through an old HBO guide (this was, like, mid-80s, which means that, yes, I'm very old) and coming across the title The House Where Evil Dwells, and (like the HBO guides used to do) the synopsis included mentions of "graphic nudity," and "extreme graphic violence." As a pubescent horror geek, I was a huge fan of the word "graphic."
Alas, I'd missed the HBO showing, and over the years I was unable to get my fingers on a VHS copy of The House Where Evil Dwells. As time went on, whenever I was reminded of the movie, my brain filled with all sorts of juicy, gruesome treats and wild East-meets-West horror insanity.
And then the movie hit DVD. I was in for one rude awakening.
Produced in the early 1980s by a Japanese production company, yet written, directed by, and starring tons of Americans, The House Where Evil Dwells is, well, it's really quite stupid is what it is. Here's how it breaks down:
We open in ancient noble samurai times. A guy and a gal are about to get all horizontal when -- in pops a seriously pissed-off sword-wielder. Seems that there's some old-school adultery goin' down here, so the hubby does what any jilted spouse would do: He dismembers the guy and his wife with a sword, and then he promptly skewers himself, too.
Through the magic of an opening credits sequence, we now find it two centuries later, and here comes a young American family who loves their new house. Quicker than you can say General Tso's Amityville Horror, the domicile is rife with ghosts, spooks, and apparitions. Actually, it's only one of each: the two ghostly guys and the loose ghost-wife. (Apparently spending 200 years in the afterworld does wonders for a relationship, because the three ghosts seem to get along perfectly well, despite all the earlier adultery and murder and whatnot.)
The rest of the film pretty much consists of the yanks wandering around the house, slowly getting more irritated with each other, while three super-imposed "ghosts" temporarily possess the newcomers for a variety of silly reasons. How silly? Well, Dad gets possessed by aggressor-ghost so the annoyed apparition can force his daughter to drink some soup. Yeah, soup.
And the actors certainly don't help matters much. As the three American idiots, we have Edward Alvert, Doug McClure, and Susan George, a trio of actors who've done more low-grade schlock than Eddie Deezen and Steven Seagal put together. (And I'm sorry to be unkind, but Ms. George's performance borders on the insane. The way she locks her eyeballs open and just ... quivers, it had me chuckling like a drunk.) Director on the scene was Kevin Connor, who actually helmed one great little cult classic in Motel Hell ... before spending the rest of his career shooting episodes of Hart to Hart.
Anyway, it only takes about 15 minutes before one realizes where this House is headed: the Americans are doomed to recreate history and end up in a greasy love triangle, and murders will occur.
Suffice to say that The House Where Evil Dwells was a whole lot cooler before I saw it. And all that "graphic gory" stuff? (Chuckle.) Some of the fakest beheadings and be-armings I've ever seen.