Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Cthulhu Mansion (1992)

Original title: La mansión de los Cthulhu

The gang of young hoodlums around one Hawk (Brad Fisher) has bitten off more than they can chew, and find themselves having to cope with the fallout from one dead security guard, as well as one dead drug dealer (and a bunch of stolen cocaine) that sets the police as well as some Very Bad People on their trail. One of their own (Luis Fernando Alvés) is hurt with one of those movie gunshot wounds of permanently fluctuating seriousness. Because the series of minor catastrophes happened at a carnival, they manage to “persuade” stage magician Chandu (Frank Finlay) – not that Chandu, we very much hope – to help them escape to his house, where they proceed to keep him, his daughter Lisa (Marcia Layton) and his mute servant hostage until they’ll get a better idea, which, given the lack of brain power in play here, might just take forever.

Alas, Chandu’s mansion is not the best place for this sort of thing, and soon the Evil Chandu keeps locked behind a door in the cellar becomes rather excited by the new company. Poltergeist phenomena, demonic possession and all sorts of shenanigans ensue.

If you’re going into Cthulhu Mansion by perhaps not Spain’s best director Juan Piquer Simón expecting either things Lovecraftian or a Chandu the Magician movie, you’ll be sorely disappointed. You see, Chandu’s mansion is actually called Cthulhu, because the mucky brochure (no compliments to the prop department for that one) that taught him true magic and cost his wife her life was simply entitled “Cthulhu”. Yup, the film didn’t even go for the Necronomicon there. Which is somewhat fitting, because the film’s idea of Evil is clearly one of the Christian demonic kind (what with it showing an allergy against crosses), and there’s nothing else having to do with Lovecraft (or even Derleth, for that matter) going on here at all.

Instead the film’s mostly concerned with being a very late attempt at ripping off the horror sub-genre of films – mostly from Italy and the USA - from the 70s where a bunch of more or less bad guys takes a group of (generally rich) people hostage in their own homes and does decidedly unfriendly things with them and crossing it with the cheesiest haunted house movie you could imagine. The former genre isn’t done much justice by a film that doesn’t seem to realize it is very belatedly trying to cash in on a sub-genre that thrives on nastiness and brutal social commentary and instead opts for keeping its hoodlums (you wouldn’t want to use a more modern word for these guys and gals) just mildly mean and very slightly brutal.

Simón does better by the cheesy haunted house movie, if your interpretation of better is “has a lot of furniture fly around, has some plants mumble, shows a woman drawn into a refrigerator by ridiculously awesome large claw hands, and includes more poltergeist nonsense than you can shake a stick at”. Add an idea of demonic possession that’s mostly about really icky looking skin, and adorably stupid death scenes, and you most certainly don’t have a decent, spooky, or whatever horror film. Instead, you get exactly the cheesy, stupid yet fun and pretty nonsensical kind of film you just might expect from Juan Piquer Simón. Despite missing my Lovecraft, I did find myself decently entertained by the brainless shenanigans.

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