Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Witchery (Ghosthouse 2) (1988)

Before I begin, I would like to extend the sincerest of thank yous to Ross Horsley, web-host and author of the blog, Anchorwoman In Peril, for the email I received today informing me that he'd been recognized with a Premio Dardo award and wanted to share it with the likes of Linus Loves 80's Horror and other sites he fancies. I was speechless, breathless and totally surprised that not only was someone reading the lovely little postings on this site, but enjoying them! This little hobby of mine has been around since God-knows-when and when I finally decided to sit and create this little contribution to the horror-loving multitudes like myself, I didn't think anyone was really going to bat an eye. I guess I was wrong! Thank you again, Ross. Now I have to keep up with this little ditty, since you all are reading! What kind of blog host would I be if I left you and not post for....wait, never mind.

When I sat and watched the original Ghosthouse, I didn't really fathom that there would be a sequel. I mean, how can a you top the elements of creepy house, some squatters meeting their untimely deaths, a weird HAM radio, and the scariest doll clown to ever grace the silver screen? Well, it turns out that you can't, but more on that later. After seeing the original film, I did some research on it and read other reviews only to discover that there was a second movie, known as Witchcraft, and Ghosthouse 2. Then to see that it starred both David Hasslehoff and Linda Blair? The Exorcist meets Knight Rider? I'm there! It did take me a while to get my hands on it and I ultimately found it after an extensive Internet and retail store hunt, completely by accident, at a Best Buy store in Fresno. I was excited to see that it was released by Shriek Show, who is following very closely on the coattails of Blue Underground and Anchor Bay as the "cool horror DVD distributor", I knew that I was in for something different.

The film opens with what appears to be an hotel on a desolate island and we are immediately introduced to an unknown woman, pregnant and running dream-like through a corridor lined with doors and being pursued by Puritans or Quakers or something. For a split second, I could swear that I was in the mood for oatmeal. Running from this group of people and not wanting to be captured, she jumps through a window on the top floor and plummets to her death. The sequence abruptly ends, which turns out to be all a dream, and we are immediately introduced to Leslie (Leslie Cumming). an occult writer who's latest project is translating a German-language book which supposedly documents that witches were one burned on the island where the hotel now stands and since then, a mysterious "witch's light" has hovered over the island that has never been explained. She is joined by her photographer boyfriend, Gary (played by the Hoff himself in all his then-handsome, bouffant-strutting glory) who is photographing the hotel and the island to accompany Leslie's writings. Hoping that the little excursion they're taking blossoms into a full-out romantic getaway, his plans are dampered by his frigid girlfriend, who has remained a virgin - well into her mid-to-late twenties - and wants nothing to do with Gary in the sexual sense. Sacre Bleu! I can't comprehend why anyone wouldn't give it up to the Hoff - I mean, even I would have in those days! - and to add insult to painful injury, she refuses to share a bed with him and makes the poor bloke sleep on the floor! That would have been the last straw for me, BUT, in all fairness, he seems to be very fond of Leslie (though she spouts out sentences in murmur as if she'd been on Xanax for the a few days straight), so he stays.

Then come the Brooks, a family from the Boston mainland, who have their eye on buying the old hotel and renovating it into an upscale bed and breakfast. The Brooks consist of Mrs. Brooks (Annie Ross of Basket Case 2), her husband Fred (Robert Champagne), pregnant step-daughter Jane (Linda Blair, who is really pregnant in this film), and her young son Tommy (Michael Manchester). They take a fishing boat out to the island along with a beautiful - but always randy - architect (Catherine Hickland) and the realtor (Rick Farnsworth, whose nerdy charm matched with his rugged good looks almost topped the "boing factor" already set by Hasslehoff) in hopes of selling off the property and getting if off their hands. The best line in the whole film comes just as they step off the boat when the fisherman tells Mr. Brooks, "They've got a bunch of legends about this island: Witches and rainbows and shit!" I must have fallen out of my chair to hear that line. I'm laughing right now as the line repeats inside my head over and over again. But before they left for the island, a strange woman in black approaches young Tommy - and shocks him when she calls him by name - but doesn't tell the family this until he sees her hovering through the top windows of the house. He also fails to mention that a little girl in wheelchair warns him that a witch lives on the island. Is she right? Or is she merely informing him of the local urban legend that the island has held over the small seaside town for centuries?

Almost as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen. Judy gets sucked into a bathtub, Mrs. Brooks gets swallowed by a wall safe and is taken to a chair in the netherworld as has her mouth sewn shut (in a really gruesome manner) and then she's placed in the chimney only to be burned alive, the sex-hungry architect and the realtor get impaled through the throat via a trophy fish wall hanging and being burned alive on the beach on an upside down cross, respectively. As original as those murders were, the most eye-popping of the set is when Leslie dreams of being raped by satan himself (?) during a frightening ritual. It's got to be seen to be appreciated and it was the scene that stayed in my mind the longest. She awakens to find herself bleeding and she begins to wonder if the legend of the witch and it's light are really true after all. By this time, it is revealed that Leslie and Gary don't have permission to be in the house, so as they watch the family leave, they think the coast is clear. The entire group is forced to wait it out on the island as a storm breaks over the hotel. Gary's little inflatable boat can't hack the choppy waters so there is no choice but to weather it out. Excruciatingly long story short, the witch cases more mayhem, the power supply is cut off and we get to see a film project play on its own. A helicopter from the mainland attempts to come find the missing group and finding no signs of life, it leaves what's left of the group trapped inside. In the film's closing act, we lose young Tommy, and we get to see Mr. Brooks' demise, by invisible throat stabbing via a voodoo doll (which was the instrument also used on the others) with a nice squirting sequence, dousing the Hoff in what seems to be blood more in the realm of hamburger condiments and it immediately had me wanting to order a bag of French Fries from the local pizza house. In other words, Heinz Ketchup maybe have been a sponsor?

We lost the Hoff - which surprised me as I was sure that he was going to get off that island - by means of crushing by double doors and it all culminates to one point: Dear Jane (and everyone else for that matter) was "chosen" by the witch to extend her existence and in the final 10 minutes, the spirit of the witch inhabits her young body until she repeats the opening sequence of pregnant girl crashing out the top floor window and falling to her death on the beach. Cue a misplaced soft pop song and we are now in the hospital, Leslie being the only survivor. This is where the film, for me, finally hit a good spot. The doctor comes in to check on her and to let her know that everything, including Leslie's baby, is going to be ok. In one of the cheesiest, lamest and overall awesome moments in my twenty-some-odd years of watching 80's horror: Leslie's confused face - picture Tim Taylor of Home Improvement tilting his head to one side and exclaiming 'Urrrr?' - faces the camera and in sheer and utter surprise she utters, "What baby?" The camera then freezes on her confused face (which shouldn't surprise anyone as she sputtered her lines in the same manner) and the music gets louder and credits roll. It was then that I heard a laughter fill the room. Wait, it was my own! Oops!

The film in itself isn't that bad, but there so many plot holes and silly camera "tricks" that don't allow it to hold up as the film it should have been able to on its own. Shreik Show's transfer is quite good, though I read that the film isn't in the 1:85 ratio and scenes are cropped. I'd never seen the film so I really didn't notice. The sound mix was good, as well. The acting in the film (aside from Michael Manchester's inexplicably banal performance, even for a child actor) is particularly sub-par, even for Linda Blair and Hasslehoff, and the score doesn't give it the mood that it needed to make the "trips into madness" the characters all experienced to make it as frightening as they producers may have hoped for. Speaking of producers, this one was penned by the legendary Joe D'Amato, whose company. Filmirage, brought out a string of films during the 80's, including the original Ghosthouse and the forgettable piece of shit film, Anthropophagus. At any rate, I can't think of any reason to go out and actually buy the film but if you like cheese like this, you might want to give it a once-over. Maybe I'm being too harsh, maybe I'm being too nice. There's a perplexity about giving this film a good rating when it doesn't give you much to cheer about - though again, some of the gore scenes were pretty original, so you can't really give it a bad one altogether. Overall, it's a piece of ineffective haunted-house trash. But that last scene sure as hell makes up for it. 

You've been warned.


Tower Farm said...

Gotta say it...I LOVE this movie. It's ridiculous beyond words. The team of Blair and Hoff is unbeatable...and watching the initial dialogue scene between the little boy and the old woman, who both appear to have no clue how to speak English, is priceless!

Anonymous said...

Scared the shyt outta me as a kid!