An American family (Edward Albert, Susan George and a terrible child actress) move into their new home in Japan only to find themselves possessed by Samurai ghosts. This inevitably leads to evil mermaid encounters, a killer crab attack, some karate, haunted soup (yes, haunted soup), and a sex scene with an unexpectedly naked Doug McClure.
The House Where Evil Dwells is an interesting wee movie in that it’s an early attempt to do a Japanese ghost story properly for a western audience (most obviously bringing to mind the The Grudge) long before scary weans were crawling out of TV screens all over the shop. Shot in Japan, it’s a US/Japanese coproduction with a largely Japanese supporting cast.
Here, it all kicks off with a 19th century tragedy, wherein a samurai discovers his wife in flagrante with another man before going properly slo-mo mental. SPOILER ALERT: everybody dies. When Albert, George and the terrible child actress move in over a century later, these 19th century characters are on hand as very old school ghosts (their fading in and out of sight apparently acheived in-camera). As family life unfolds, the ghosts watch on disapprovingly before, well, possessing the soup. Not content with the supernatural control of hot dinners, they go on to possess the parents, making them re-enact the original tragic love triangle with family friend McClure. Occasionally violent and for the most part atmospheric, it would be a push to say there were any real scares here – the vibe is more Tales of the Unexpected than The Omen.
Not easy to find affordably on DVD, I picked this up online partly because of that genre cast but mainly due to director Kevin Connor’s track record with great ’70s schlock. As well as being the man behind both Motel Hell and Arabian Adventure, it was Connor who helmed McClure’s career-high starring vehicles At The Earth’s Core, The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot and Warlords of Atlantis. The House Where Evil Dwells is an odd but worthy addition to that list.