Witchery (1988) I was previously aware of (mostly through Fangoria), but I’ve never seen it. Ghosthouse (1988) I only learned about several years ago and the trailer didn’t look bad. Basically, I’ve been curious about both for years, and when I say “curious” I mean are they any good? Witchery’s got David Hasselhoff and Linda Blair, which means I simply have to see it based on that alone, Ghosthouse is full of unknowns and since that’s the first flick on this double that’s the one I started with.
For a flick I thought I was going to like, well (sigh), I did not. Right after the bloody prologue (20-years later) where we’re introduced to this family, this creepy little girl, her creepier clown doll and the mother and father’s gruesome demise, the set-up was equally creepy (yup, using that word too much) enough to put me in a good place, but once the “supernatural menace” is revealed it rudely shoved me out and into a cold, bad place.
If that evil clown from Poltergeist (1982) had a twin brother, this is probably what he was up to. The set-up starts off with this guy, Paul (Greg Scott), a ham radio enthusiast, receiving this creepy transmission that involves a guy and a girl addressing someone, or something, and then screaming in horror. Paul decides to track down the source and takes his squeeze, Martha (Lara Wendel) along with him. Along they way they pick up this annoying hitchhiker, whom gets dropped off and hopefully forgotten, but at least when he does show up in the movie again, you can just tell he’s heading for a fate worse than death.
Paul and Martha track the transmission to an abandoned New England mansion where a group of kids have holed up. When I say “holed up” I mean hanging out. I don’t know what the hell they were doing there, but one of the kids, Jim (Martin Jay), has a CB set up in the attic and this is where the transmission originated. You see what Paul and Martha heard was a future event of Jim getting killed and one of two chicks encountering the ghost girl and her clown doll in the attic right after a fan blade sent Jim to the great beyond.
There’s also a mental patient named, Valkos (Donald O’Brien), who acts as caretaker and turns homicidal. It’s never clear if the ghost girl and her clown made him kill or he was just bound to kill because he was not right in the old bean.
This movie reminded me of Superstition (1982), due to the setting and the killer caretaker and Poltergeist, due to the clown and a scene at the end where one of the kids falls through the floor and into what appeared to be scolding hot, vanilla yogurt. A scene that reminded me of when Jo Beth Williams falls into the muddy pool and is terrorized by all those floating corpses. Something similar happens here except the corpses are replaced with skulls floating in the preternatural yogurt. It’s the clown we learn that’s the evil one, but we don’t learn much more than that. Oh, right, and for reasons I still can’t explain a ghostly Doberman appears a couple of times, menaces a couple of kids then vanishes.
The movie moves at a pretty good clip. I wasn’t bored. I just found myself not all that engrossed in the proceedings. The supernatural menace should have been more menacing, I guess. A dead kid and her evil clown toy? Mmmmm, no, nope.
So, does Witchery (1988) fair any better? Was I equally disappointed in that one? I was more disappointed in that one. So much so I couldn’t even finish the movie. At any rate what you’ve got here is several sets of characters that are highlighted individually before converging on this island. It’s this island where in the prologue we see a pregnant woman being chased by these obviously garbed Salem witch hunters. Instead of being captured she decides to toss herself out of the window of one of the buildings. According to the various characters we meet afterwards this island has a ‘witch burning’ history and the first characters focused on is Gary (Hassolhoff) and his virgin princess, Leslie (Leslie Cumming). Leslie’s researching the history of the island and is probably the oldest living virgin I’ve ever seen. Gary tries several times to deflower her but for reasons unknown she won’t let him. Her motives in this department may have been explained later on in the movie.
We then meet pregnant, Jane Brooks (Linda Blair), who experiences dreams of that prologue and almost gets squashed by a huge girder. Her family is interested in the island, and she eventually meets up with her mother, Rose (Annie Ross) and her father, Freddie (Bob Champagne), who coincidentally was also in Ghosthouse. He was the mortician. Here his part is bigger. Thank God for small favors.
Our final characters are Linda (Catherine Hickland), a real estate agent, I think, some dude named Jerry (Rick Farnsworth) and this “Lady In Black” (Hildegard Neff) as she’s billed in the credits. Gary and Leslie are already on the island, the rest come to see the potential real estate and are marooned there and from that point on this witch, this “Lady In Black,” starts killing them off by sucking them into the past, or her lair? Not really sure, torturing them and killing them. That’s about as far as I got before I checked out.
Of the two flicks on this double feature, personally, Ghosthouse was the more entertaining, but if you’re fans of either or both of these movies I’m sure you’re not reading this thumbs down review to know what I thought of these flicks, but if the transfers are worthy of inclusion in your DVD collection, so with that said let’s segue down to the specs part of this review. Before I do though let me do this customary plug of stating back on June 30th Scream Factory (Shout! Factory’s horror/scifi sub-label) released both of these movies on a double-featured blu-ray. I don’t believe Ghosthouse has ever had a disc release of any kind here in the states; Witchery has from Media Blaster’s Shriek Show sub-label back in 2006.
Video/Audio/Subtitles (Ghosthouse & Witchery): 1080p 1.66:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only
Take note the transfer used for Witchery bears the original title (I assume) of Witchcraft (Evil Encounters). Both of these transfers were excellent. Very good looking. Actually I think Ghosthouse looked the best of the two, but that’s just me.
- Trailers for each flick