The House Where Evil Dwells - A century ago, a samurai brutally murdered his adulterous wife and her lover before taking his own life. Now, the Fletcher family has found what they think is their perfect Japanese home – not knowing it's the same house where the murders occurred. But as strange events escalate and the ghosts of the dead begin to toy with the living, the Fletchers discover they've become unwitting players in a horrible reenactment... one which they may not survive! This chilling ghost story stars Edward Albert (Galaxy Of Terror), Susan George (Straw Dogs) and Doug McClure (Humanoids From The Deep) and is directed by Kevin Connor (Motel Hell). NEW TRANSFER.
Ghost Warrior - While exploring a cave, two skiers find the body of a 400-year-old samurai warrior entombed in ice. He is brought to the United States in a hush-hush operation and revived through cryosurgery. Unfortunately, he is then forced to battle for his freedom, dignity and life. This Charles Band production stars Janet Julian (King Of New York, Humongous).
The House Where Evil Dwells
The one and only requisite of any good supernatural horror tale set inside a haunted house is that it be scary or remotely creepy. If it fails at that, the movie should at least be engaging, entailing an elaborate and tangled mystery that pushes the lack of spine-tingling chills as a side note. Regrettably, 'The House Where Evil Dwells' does neither of these things. Disappointingly miserable at nearly every level, this low-budget production feels like the result of daytime television and 'The Amityville Horror' after a steamy love affair with some random erotica film. Only, this snorefest is too titillating for television with characters taking off their clothes on a few occasions but not titillating enough to ever be considered erotic. Even stranger, the story never moves gradually into a sex scene. They just seem to happen, very matter of fact. Two characters are suddenly baring their chest and grinding their hips on one another. It's about as sexy as watching a nature documentary with Sir David Attenborough explaining a scene with a tortoise climbing another from behind.
Based on the novel by James Hardiman — and Robert Suhosky's script feels every bit as though inspired by a book — the story gives away everything in the opening moments, leaving no room whatsoever for surprises. In 1840, a samurai (Tsuiyuki Sasaki) violently murders his wife (Mako Hattori) and her lover (Toshiya Maruyama) in a house on a rural hillside in Kyoto, Japan before committing harakiri. Jumping 140 years forward, an American family moves into the house where the ghosts unsurprisingly still reside, so take a wild guess as to what happens next. Photographer and writer Ted Fletcher (Edward Albert) moves his family, wife Laura (a melodramatic Susan George) and twelve-year-old daughter Amy (a stiff and emotionless Amy Barrett), into the home for a bargain where they are tormented with each day growing progressively worse. With a close, and convenient bachelor, friend (Doug McClure) helping in their transition, it's easy to see where the story is going, especially when the malevolent spirits are able to possess the new tenants into doing their bidding.
The only thing maintaining a viewer's interest is the hilariously shoddy special effects with the ghosts appearing superimposed in the photography being the most amusing. With actors often interacting with nothing, the scenes come off quirky and odd, but there are times when suddenly they also act as poltergeists, flipping over plates of food or throwing noh masks across a room. These moments sooner bring a smile or a chuckle than send chills down the spine. There are also times when Ted's visions of Hattori's Otami are laughably offbeat while we wonder what crazy looking outfit Ted will wear next and why no one bothers to mention it. As the story progresses, 'The House Where Evil Dwells' falls victim to its time period and typical American film tropes when a Zen monk (Henry Mittwer) stands in for the Catholic priest. With the power to banish the spiteful phantoms with a prayer and piece of power, the family could have avoided all the pain and suffering if only they asked the monk to perform the ritual from the start — thus, saving us the misery of having to watch this. (Movie Rating: 1/5)
Coming with a welcome amount of humor — some of which possibly unintentional — 'Ghost Warrior' follows the typical "fish out of water" formula with entertaining action and a well-earned conclusion, making it a pleasantly satisfying surprise. The fish in Tim Curnen's ('Forbidden World') script is a 400-year-old samurai recently thawed from his popsicle tomb, and the water in this story is 20th Century Los Angeles. On that alone, one can already imagine the hilarity to ensue when the feudal aristocrat, named Yoshimitsu (an excellent Hiroshi Fujioka), encounters electricity, cars, Cup O' Noodles and gang members who apparently look like dirty homeless people bullying an old man (the wonderful and talented Charles Lampkin, best remembered for his role in Arch Oboler's sci-fi classic 'Five'). Well, perhaps, it's not all that hilarious, but these scenes add a quirkiness to the plot's more serious aspects. One of the movie's funnier moments is Yoshi's reaction to a bizarre music video by the heavy metal band W.A.S.P. on a portable TV, which he pokes with his sword before turning it over on its screen.
Continuing the underlying humor are the often overzealous attempts at drama, the parts the filmmakers likely did not mean as funny or eye-raising to audiences — as if the premise weren't enough. Most amusingly vexing is the voiceover narration by the movie's only female character, Chris Welles (Janet Julian of 'Humongous'), introduced after a prologue sequence showing the samurai's tragic demise. She admits to her limited knowledge of ancient Japanese culture and language, yet she's hilariously brought in by a covert research facility where one guy in a white lab coat we assume is a scientist (John Calvin) leads a team of other lab coats through a crazy light show when thawing Yoshi. It's a killer blue laser spectacle surrounded by various machines, gizmos and electrical doodads that make the whole process seem very scientific and futuristic. It doesn't take long to figure out Chris and Yoshi will soon develop a bond that'll have going that extra mile to protect him from both the evil scientists and a police force that doesn't understand he's the victim.
As silly and predictable as that may be, however, the Chris and Yoshi romance — a passion that's never outrightly spoken about, which I admit is handled very nicely — is ultimately what gives 'Ghost Warrior' its charm. Director J. Larry Carroll (writer of 'Tourist Trap' and classic animated series 'Ghostbusters,' 'Thundercats' and 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles') doesn't push this aspect of the story or even turn it into the major focal point, but uses it more as our hero's second chance at redemption. More curious still is the language barrier not only between the two lovebirds but even when Yoshi meets a Japanese American who doesn't understand Yoshi's outdated dialect, revealing a desire by the filmmakers in wanting to make something smarter than a straightforward actioner. This, more than anything, is what finally left an impression, an unexpected surprise in a production that otherwise would be easy to brush off as a cheap, martial arts B-movie capitalizing on a trendy 80s fascination with Japanese culture. Thankfully, it offers more than that. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings 'The House Where Evil Dwells/Ghost Warrior' to Blu-ray as a double-feature single-disc release under the distributor's Scream Factory line. The Region A locked, BD50 disc containing both films is housed inside a regular blue case with reversible cover art. At startup, the disc goes to an animated screen with music where viewers can choose between the two movies, and then taken to the standard menu screen with full-motion clips.
The House Where Evil Dwells
Those meddling ghosts dwell on Blu-ray with a generally satisfying 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that displays plenty of good detailing in several scenes, particularly those taking place during the day. Fine lines and objects are often sharply defined with distinct clarity in the smallest items and lettering in signs, and skin tones appear healthy and revealing. However, several scenes are, of course, a bit blurrier than others. Still, the source used has aged fairly well, showing white specks and flecks of dirt in only a couple spots while the rest of the 1.78:1 image is consistent with good resolution and a very fine layer of grain throughout. Contrast and brightness are well-balanced with clean whites and strong black levels, but the most impressive aspect of the high-def transfer are the colors, which are richly saturated and vivid in every scene. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
The unfrozen samurai arrives in similar fashion to the previous movie, showing plenty of good sharp definition throughout with daylight sequences looking best. Facial complexions appear natural and satisfying while hair and clothing are nicely detailed. Black levels are accurate and pleasing, and colors benefit the most from the jump to high definition. However, the AVC-encoded transfer also comes with its share of less appealing and blurry sequences, and much of the presentation is riddled with white specks, dirt, minor scratches and vertical lines. Although whites are clean and crisp for the most part, contrast runs a tad on the hot side, making highlights bloom and creating some very mild posterization. Visibility is average in poorly-lit sequences, but the video comes with a fine layer of natural, visible grain, giving the 1.78:1 image an appreciable film-like appeal. (Video Rating: 3/5)
The House Where Evil Dwells
The trio of the least scary ghosts ever devised patronize and pry into American lives with a very good DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack that's far better than would be expected from a feature of this caliber. Vocals are articulate and precise in the center, though occasionally the ADR is obvious, while various background effects fill the rest of the space, providing the soundstage with an appreciable sense of presence. The musical score, much of it done with the traditional Japanese flute, also furnishes the imaging with a nice, welcomed expansiveness, exhibiting distinct, detailed dynamics and very good acoustics. Bass is sadly lacking, but that's to be anticipated from a movie of this vintage. Nevertheless, the overall quality of the lossless mix is surprisingly enjoyable, in good shape and amusingly engaging. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
As with the video, the movie arrives with a good DTS-HD mono track that's similar to the above movie. The ADR work can be distractingly evident in some places, but for the most part, dialogue reproduction is strong with generally satisfying results. Dynamic range isn't particularly impressive or extensive, often feeling very narrow down the center, but the mids show appreciable differentiation and clarity, especially in the score, making it the lossless mix's best aspect. Background activity is clean and distinct, providing the movie with some presence, although atmospherics are somewhat sporadic. There isn't much bass to speak of, but the little we have is adequate for a movie of this age, making this an amusing enough soundtrack. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
This is a bare-bones release.
Although amusing in a few spots, 'The House Where Evil Dwells' fails at establishing any level of suspense or an elaborate mystery to engage viewers, but it comes with several unintentional laughs that might interest some. On the other hand, 'Ghost Warrior' is a pleasant surprise featuring a fish-out-water premise that yields several bits of action, a likeable protagonist thanks to the excellent performance of Hiroshi Fujioka and a dramatic arc that genuinely satisfies. The Blu-ray arrives with a very good audio and video presentation in both movies, but this is a bare-bones release, which might make some hesitant. Still, the overall package is worth the price just to own the second film.