Thursday, February 26, 2009

Face Soup and Other Discomforts - The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)

The House Where Evil Dwells was a disappointment, in that it wasn’t a laugh riot from start to finish. I already knew going in that it wasn’t very good, but I wasn’t exactly sure why. Now I know. It’s about a couple who move into a house in Japan where a double murder-suicide occurred, and them dealing with the ghosts left over from the crime. It’s kind of the same premise as Ju-on, but where that movie is definitely horror, The House Where Evil Dwells is sometimes funny, but mostly drama, I guess. It’s weirdly boring yet still watchable, and it’s not scary – even in the most liberal sense of the word. I think it was supposed to be, which, if that’s the case, well…good job all around. NOT.

The makers of Onibaba would be pissed.

There weren’t too many flat out horrible parts to the movie – I actually thought the acting was quite good – but nothing really happened to anyone besides the occasional weird possession, and for some reason, the filmmakers decided to show the ghosts as transparent-looking people with goofy makeup on. There’s no atmosphere to speak of, and only one scene could possibly be construed as “horror.” It involves giant crabs on wires and a girl being put in the hospital from a fall from a tree about 8 feet in the air. Brittle bones, I guess. Oh, I almost forgot about the ghostly face in the girl’s soup, which elicited the Spock-like logical reaction, “There’s a horrible face in my soup,” followed by her father’s plead to “eat your soup for daddy.” What the fuck? Either daddy put the face in the soup, or he has quite the high tolerance for bizarre phrases.

Alright, since there’s no atmospheric horror going on, how about gore? Eh…there are two beheadings and a limb cut off, but they’re really nothing to write home about. Well, on second thought, one beheading featured an amazing prop head with a giraffe neck that seemed to be spring-loaded to fly off at the exact opposite angle it was cut from. Being able to frame advance the whole thing didn’t do the scene any favors, really, but I’m glad I wasn’t drinking anything when it happened.

The evolution of a poorly (or awesomely) simulated murder.

One thing that struck me really odd was the lack of communication between, well, anyone. Both the husband and wife see the ghosts, but they never talk about it with each other. It’s like every encounter was their own special little moment, and sense be damned if they weren’t going to share them. Although, I wouldn’t be running to my spouse to tell them that a weirdo in a kimono was standing there pointing at me repeatedly, either. If they were dripping blood or something, maybe. But besides that, the ghosts also made a mask fall on the coffee table, tipped over a bowl of soup, and slammed a sword in a table. 

One thing The House Where Evil Dwells has going for it is Susan George. More specifically, her boobies. Actually, that’s not very fair. She’s a good actress, and did an admirable job with the material she had to work with. If anything, I think she did too good a job in the scenes that were supposed to be emotional. Case in point: a scene where she gets into an argument with her husband and they yell a few things at each other. She then starts crying and says they always argue, and she just wants to stop. I’d normally agree, but that was the only instance of the two arguing in the whole movie. There’s not any kind of build up or release of emotion…that is, if that’s what they were going for. Who knows, maybe I’m just expecting too much from a movie that included a plot-forwarding (riiiiight) sex scene with the exquisite George.

Dirty Mary in the flesh.

Lastly, I’d like to mention the awful but great kung-fu fight at the end. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then I’d submit this clip as an equivalent to about ten million pictures, or 10,000,000,000 words, respectively.

Here's the trailer, even though I didn't bother watching it. I caught about 2 seconds of some awful "trailer guy" voice, but that's as far as I got.

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