Fans of bad sci-fi/horror movies will know the name Doug McClure. The ubiquitous actor showed up in several of them, including the Roger Corman howler, Humanoids from the Deep, as well as a few of those seventies “beneath the Earth” flicks where men fought Dinosaurs who’d somehow found new homes near the planet’s molten core. McClure also went on to inspire the Phil Hartman voiced Troy McClure (“You may remember me from such films as…”), painting him as an actor who was less than picky about the quality of films he choose to make. Fans of marginally decent films (and some classics) will also, no doubt, recall Susan George, who seemed to be in at least one out of every dozen films made between 1968 and 1979. As for Edward Albert, well, he has no fans. His father was famous, though.
The three actors formed sort of a “supergroup” of mediocrity when they joined forces for 1982’s The House Where Evil Dwells; a ghost story that is only slighter scarier than a basket full of puppies, yet not nearly as intelligent.
The film opens in feudal Japan, as a woman entertains her lover with a soothing song on her biwa (accompanied by an invisible flautist) before getting down to the nasty. The woman’s samurai husband comes home and finds his cheating wife and her lover, and we are then treated to a long, slow motion scene of the Samurai swinging his sword at furniture and curtains. Eventually he finally hits some flesh, and kills his wife and her lover, before killing himself.
Flash forward two hundred years, and Alex (McClure) is greeting his friend Ted (Albert), along with his wife Laura (George) and daughter Amy (who, according to the IMDB, played the role of “Amy” in three other films, making one wonder if she was aware that she was even in a film at all) at the airport. Ted is in Japan to do some “research”, and Alex has procured the family a house for their stay. It’s a traditional style house, which Ted wanted, but the only catch is that it’s haunted. Ted and Laura laugh this off, while Amy stares out the window of the cab, apparently wondering who these people are, and why she isn’t back home in school with all of the other kids. Of course the house they are moving into is the same house where the samurai killed his wife and lover, and the ghosts are very much real. The ghost of the wife inhabits Laura’s body and makes lewd comments to Alex, igniting an affair. At the same time, Ted sees the female specter and becomes obsessed with her. Amy, meanwhile, is attacked by wind-up crabs that are dragged across her bedroom floor on strings, chanting stuff in Japanese. Everyone is possessed or haunted in one way or another, save for Alex, who is, apparently, just an asshole.
The House Where Evil Dwells is a terrible horror movie, but it is a fantastic comedy. The fight scene at the film’s end alone is worth the price of a rental. Watching Albert and McClure’s display their choreographed martial arts skills is akin to watching a middle-aged white man dance to a Wu Tang album. It’s at once embarrassing and hilarious. I'll throw this film a half-a-skull for the George nudity alone, but, otherwise, there's nothing to see here.
The film was shot on-location in Japan, and actually looks pretty good, as does George, an actress who one can always rely upon to take off her clothes at the drop of a hat. The performances aren’t really as bad as one would think, save, of course, for Amy, who looks as though she may have required her own on-set “drool” wiper. The real problem with this film is that, with the exception of the gory opening and ending sequences, nothing else really happens, and the film’s attempts at scaring the audience are laughable.
MGM Releases this film with both widescreen and full screen presentations. The lone extra is the original theatrical trailer, which doesn't surprise me seeing as how McClure's dead, George probably has better things to do than revisit this film, and Edward Albert probably had to work a double shift at the Bed, Bath and Beyond.