• House Where Evil Dwells/Ghost Warrior

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: January 5th, 2016.
    Director: Kevin Connor/J. Larry Carroll
    Cast: Edward Albert, Susan George, Doug McClure/Hiroshi Fujioka, John Calvin, Janet Julian
    Year: 1982/1986
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    Scream Factory double feature time, this time with a pair of eighties oddities plucked from the bowels of the MGM archives.

    The House Where Evil Dwells:

    The first film is the real reason you’re going to want to pick this one up, as it’s a bit of an underrated gem of weird eighties genre cinema. Directed by Kevin Connor (the same man who gave us Motel Hell), The House Where Evil Dwells begins in the era of the samurai where a master swordsman follows the trail back to his humble abode and is shocked to see, through the paper walls of his home, the silhouette of his wife locked in the embrace of his protégé. He kills the two lovers and then turns his blade on himself.

    Cut to the present day of 1982 where an American journalist named Ted Fletcher (Edward Albert) has packed up with his English wife Laura (Susan George) and their young daughter Amy (Amy Barrett) to relocate from the land of the free to the land of the rising sun. Alex (Doug McClure), Ted’s best friend, works in Japan and hooks them up with a nice, spacious home that just so happens to be right in their price range. You know where this is going, right? Of course, the place is haunted by the spirits of the three left dead in the wake of the opening scene, but these ghosts aren’t just haunting the place, they’re still dealing with the feelings they felt way back when and eventually find themselves able to possess the new occupants to get on with unfinished business.

    A weird movie that mixes up elements of samurai action and drama, Poltergeist inspired haunting and, yes, a fairly melodramatic love triangle, The House Where Evil Dwells was based on a novel written by James Hardiman. The film goes at a pretty good pace and while it’s never really scary the way that the best ghost stories are, it’s consistently quirky and strange. The spirits manifest through the cinematic glory of early eighties optical effects, so they never look realistic or frightening but they do look kind of neat in their own way and where they choose to manifest (inside a soup bowl!) is often kind of strange.

    The movie deals heavily in clichés of the genre but at least it does so at a good clip and the cast are all a lot of fun here. Susan George is eminently watchable (and, one point, quite nude) and Edward Albert plays the concerned husband/father role well enough. Doug McClure is fun here too, especially once the love triangle from beyond the grave comes into play. It’s goofy and hard to take all that seriously but hot damn if it isn’t plenty entertaining. It’s also nicely shot, well produced in terms of gloss and sheen, and it throws in a pretty great opening scene complete with some quality bloodshed. It’s also got some bad ass giant crab monsters, a crazy exorcism and some random action scenes thrown in for good measure. It’s eighty-eight minutes of completely ridiculous R-rated fun.

    Ghost Warrior:

    This is one of those ‘should be awesome’ movies that isn’t. Think about it – a master samurai is frozen in ice for hundreds of years and wakes up, thaws out, and hits the mean streets of eighties era Los Angeles to fight bad guys. This sounds rad, right? It’s not. Even if it was produced by Charles Band and even if it has a great synth score, it’s not awesome. Not even close.

    So yeah, when the movie begins we meet a samurai (Hiroshi Fujioka) who finds himself on the losing end of a battle but slips off of a cliff and falls into icy waters before the bad guy he is dueling with can finish him off. Fast forward a few hundred years and a scientist, Dr. Alan Richards (John Calvin), finds him, takes him back to L.A. for testing and thaws him out. His moderately attractive pal and expert on Japanese studies, Chris Welles (Janet Julian), decides to help out and before you know it, she and the unfrozen samurai are friendly enough that he starts to trust her. Things are going quite swimmingly until a sneaky janitor tries to steal our samurai’s priceless swords out from under him while he’s sleeping – bad move, you don’t steal swords from someone who deals in death! So yeah, the janitor gets cut up and killed and the samurai books it out of the lab and hits the streets of Los Angeles.

    Truly a stranger in a strange land, he saves an old black guy from a bunch of muggers, cuts some guy’s arm off, goes to a sushi joint where some dimwit recognizes him as Toshiro Mifune and eventually lands a spot on the muggers’ collective hit list. Chris is on the hunt for him, trying to get him back to the lab before even more shit hits the fan, but it’s too little too late, and soon enough there will be the inevitable showdown…

    As mentioned, this movie should have been awesome. It should have been full of all sorts of awesome scenes of a time travelling samurai hacking up Warriors-wannabes and eighties gangbangers left, right and center. The samurai should have boned Chris and the old black guy should have been funny. Unfortunately none of this came to pass. Despite the film’s R-rating it’s only nominally violent, the aforementioned bit where the bad guy’s hand gets cut off being the best part of the entire film. The picture doesn’t deliver nearly enough action to sustain itself and as such, it winds up dragging.

    If the movie had given us characters to care about, this probably wouldn’t have been such a big deal but it didn’t. Nope, everyone here is one dimensional at best, there’s very little substance to any of this – most of the movie is made up of the samurai just sort of wandering around and looking simultaneously amused and intrigued by the modern world. To his credit, Hiroshi Fujioka carries a nobility about himself that makes him a great casting choice and the early scenes that we’re supposed to believe were shot in Japan look great and start the film off well enough – but when the script fails to give him much to do outside of wandering around, you probably won’t care.


    The House Where Evil Dwells is presented in 1.78.1 and Ghost Warrior in 1.85.1, both transferred in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Each film looks pretty solid in high def. Colors are strong and reproduced quite nicely and the elements used here were obviously in very nice shape as there’s very little print damage to note. Black levels are good and detail and texture are both stronger than past DVD (or in the case of Ghost Warrior, DVD-R as it was released as part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection line of MOD titles) releases have been able to offer.

    The first feature gets a DTS-HD Mono track, the second a DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, both are in their native English (except for the parts in Ghost Warrior that are spoken in Japanese, which have been left unsubtitled), and they sound just fine. Levels are well balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to report. Optional subtitles are provided in English for each feature.

    Outside of static menus and chapter stops, the disc also includes a theatrical trailer for each feature.

    The Final Word:

    Ghost Warrior is a big stinking pile of wasted potential, but The House Where Evil Dwells is kind of great. Really great, actually. So get this one for the first feature and consider the second a freebie. The presentation here isn’t stacked with extras but both movies do look and sound quite nice and the transfers and audio mixes are substantially better than their previous DVD issues.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      Bummer about Ghost Warrior, had high hopes, but it least House is good enough to warrant a spin. Thanks