Starting with Umberto Lenzi’s Ghosthouse, a very blatant rip off of Poltergeist, made in 1988 and shot in the US (particularly in Massachusetts). Lenzi is a sort of genre cinema force that has a vast career that transgresses the boundaries of convention, taste, and maybe even ethics. But that’s alright. I actually really like some of his work – Gang War In Milan, Seven Blood Stained Orchids, Almost Human – and don’t understand the appeal of the rest of it – Cannibal Ferox, Nightmare City – and he’s never all that predictable. Case in point: Ghosthouse. Why the fuck did Lenzi even make this? For someone who seems to buck trends (or at least make them his own) he went really cookie cutter here. This is practically a remake of Poltergeist down to the damned clown doll. But, that said, it’s actually a lot of silly fun. The gore, a Lenzi staple, is great, the score is absurd, and the acting is all over the place. I’m not sure that it all makes sense (actually, it definitely doesn’t) but I can get past that, for the most part. It features a possessed dog, people getting cut in half, and that damned clown doll. It may not be as good of a film as Poltergeist is, but I’m definitely more apt to want to watch it again.
Next up is Fabrizio Laurenti’s Witchery. Also from 1988 and also set in Massachusetts (why the fuck?), this one is even crazier than the first. It also teams up David Hasselhoff and Linda Blair. Which is a pairing that I never knew I needed until now. I’m pretty sure this makes even less sense than Ghosthouse does. Actually, I’m not sure that I could even truly tell someone what it is about. I know that Blair gets possessed (that seems to happen to her a lot) and Hasselhoff gets all fucked up and bloody, but why? Who cares, I guess. This one is actually really, really gross. There’s a neck that seems to spurt blood for 1/4 of the film’s runtime, someone gets killed by a swordfish (!) and there’s a lot of fire shenanigans. It’s supremely silly stuff and seems to meld about a half dozen horror sub-genres into one very incoherent whole, but it’s also really entertaining and, well, gross.
Scream Factory have brought these to Blu-ray for the first time on one disc which allows you to select the feature at the start of the disc. The transfers are adequate, with Witchery looking the better of the two. Both are kind of soft though and Ghosthouse almost seems to have had some excessive DNR work. There’s minimal damage present on both and blacks and colors are relatively solid. It’s not a perfect presentation but it should please fans. Audio is DTS 2.0 and both sound great, no issues there.
Ghosthouse and Witchery are profoundly illogical entries into Italian horror cinema yet both are very fun if you know what to expect. There’s plenty of gore and absurdity to be found, making this a fun double feature to watch with a group. Scream Factory’s presentation is solid, albeit with problems, and there are no supplements to be found. Still, for the cost this is recommended to fans of the genre and is a worthwhile rental for anyone on the fence.