Thursday, June 16, 2016

House of Lost Souls (1989)

aka Ghosthouse 3

Original title: La casa delle anime erranti

A gaggle of geology students – actor and character names don’t matter at all even though one of the female students has been diagnosed as a medium by her doctors – are trying to make their way out of the Italian Alps (I think) where they were involved in some sort of research project. Alas, exactly the rock falls they have been concerned about are making the roads back to actual civilization impassable.

Fortunately, there’s a hotel just a bit off from where the roads are blocked, so our intrepid heroes check into an ugly, somewhat brutalist building that probably hasn’t seen a new coat of paint since World War II. The proprietor is monosyllabic, rude, and somewhat creepy. He has good reasons for these character flaws though, for he has been dead for quite some time now, and is in fact just one of the vengeful ghosts haunting the hotel. In the coming nights and days, the number of geology students in Italy will shrink a bit.

By 1989, the once grand – if often bizarre – project of Italian horror was nearly over. Why, even old hands like Umberto Lenzi were lucky if they could at least get stuff like this TV (though at least cable style) movie under way. This time around, Lenzi brought his A game with him, which in my view of Lenzi (there are some of my peers who like his films in general quite a bit more than I do) means he avoided his tendency to bore and sprinkled the sugary deliciousness of non-sequitur craziness all over the proceedings here. The resulting film may be no Spasmo but it sure as ghosts provides the sceptical viewer with all the cheesy nonsense and the bizarre “why not” ideas she might wish for from this sort of things.

So the film is full of interesting dialogue you’ll already learn to love in the very early scene in which we learn that Italian physicians apparently diagnose people as mediums, features acting that fluctuates between the absurdly overdone and the just as absurdly deadpan and which is only made more bizarre by a dubbing track that is special even for English language dubs of Italian films, and presents the audience with a whole lot of nonsense Man probably Wasn’t Meant To Know.

The ghosts are of a rather hands-on type, preferring to kill their victims with knives, except for the Buddhist monk ghost who prefers making classic strangler hands – yes, there’s a Buddhist monk ghost, why do you ask? – and the little boy ghost who is really into telekinesis. All of ‘em really, really love decapitation so there’s are a lot of heads rolling/flying/going around. The film’s best/probably funniest scene presents a little boy being decapitated by a wayward washing machine, curiously enough not the only time I’ve seen a washing machine attack in an Italian movie; hopefully not the last time either.

Other demonstrations of Lenzi’s particular gifts can be found all over the film: there’s an hilariously awkward yet also kinda cool scene where diegetic music is at once the appropriate soundtrack to a murder and the reason the other characters don’t notice it (also featuring one of the female characters leaving the room in disgust – of the music and the company – snarling something about just getting her cigarettes with the loudest silent screw you imaginable appended). Or that moment when half of the characters are already convinced the hotel they’re staying in is a very dangerous place, yet some still stay behind there for no reason whatsoever while the rest goes on a fact finding mission in town.

Ah, they just don’t make stuff like this anymore, and in fact, they didn’t even make stuff like this anymore in 1989, so thanks, maestro Lenzi, for keeping the torch burning.

No comments: