(Release Date: May 21, 1988 [Japan])
(Release Date: June 01, 1988 [France])
(Release Date: August 11, 1988 [Italy])
I'd like to tell you that it was because he didn't want his name up in lights next to that of psyche ward patient number 8 Umberto Lenzi, but this was the second of three "movies" that D'Amato and Lenzi worked on together. Not only that, but their last joint project (Paranoia) came out in 1970, a full eighteen years before this 1988 film, however, La Casa 3 itself apparently went so remarkably well that their very next (and last) collaboration (Para Nel Buio) was released the very next year, in 1989. One would think that 18 years after THAT, in 2007 these two B-Movie Maestros might have satisfied their global NAVY of fans by releasing another hog loogie onto the big screen, but no such luck, buckos... by then they'd washed their hands and feet of each other and even acted like they didn't know each other at parties. (That last part is just a guess, but, let's face it, that's what I'd do!)
But, yeah, La Casa 3 does suck in most ways. It's hard to fathom how they tried to pass this one off as a sequel to Evil Dead II, man!
Yeah, just as Zombie 5 and Zombie 6 were renamed to cash in on the franchise that started with Zombi 2 (itself an unofficial sequel to Dawn of the Dead) this cheap, lame Italian Horror Movie about a haunted house and the teenagers who become its prey was named La Casa 3 to cash in on the successes of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II (released in Italy under the respective titles of La Casa and La Casa 2). By the way, Joe wasn't even close to being finished with his comedic renaming strategies, as the aforementioned Para Nel Buio was also released under the title The Hitcher 2!
Be that as it may (and unbelievably, it was), the odds of anybody buying into the idea that La Casa 3 (better known in many regions by its original name, Ghosthouse) was in any way related to any incarnation of the Evil Dead series had to have been somewhat akin to the odds of Kool-Aid Man Jim Jones being named the next Pope by the Catholic Church!
Let's observe... Wacky Mr. Umberto (who, similar to Joe D'Amato, had his name removed from the credits in favor of the pseudonym Humphrey Humbert) uses his budget and years of experience to prove to all of us again and again that he is no Sam "Evil Dead" Raimi! He introduces us to a Ham Radio operator named Paul (Fatal Attraction bit player Greg Scott) who has, right next to his Ham Radio... a "Computer". I'm sure audiences were wowed by that fact. Man, just looking at the green on black screen, I was brought way back to the days of "Rocky's Boots" and "Gertrude's Secret". I wonder if he had... a "modem". Anyway, one lazy day when he and his acting-deficient girlfriend Martha (Lara Wendel) are just doing what they always do (nothing) they hear the sounds of what seems to be a grizzly murder that might have been chilling if it didn't sound like the victim was reading from a poorly written cue-card. Because they still have an entire Ryder Truck full of NOTHING to do, Lara suggests that they triangulate the signal of the other radio and investigate this Groovy Mystery. Meddling Kids!
It's about that time that they run into the script's least necessary character (Willy M. Moon's only screen credit of Pepe) then discover a creepy, old, abandoned mansion, where the radio signal is emanating from. Naturally the radio's owner (Martin Jay's Jim) is furious with Paul and Martha for trespassing in the very house he was trespassing in first! How dare they? Fear not, folks, Jim soon joins the gang when they all discover that it was his annoying voice (coming from... the future...) that was heard on the radio, so poorly reading his last words. Hey, at least he'll know what to say when he dies!
This corn-ball team-up, which is rounded out by Jim's traveling companions Tina (Kate Silver), Susan (Mary Sellers) and Mark (Ron Houck), soon discovers the painfully obvious... that this creepy old mansion is, in fact, haunted. Like idiots they stay and hang out to investigate a while longer. Okay, then! Do the words "For God's Sake, GET OUT!" mean anything to you? Well, they slowly start to uncover a few more facts... mostly with the help of the police, who also don't care if they squat in an abandoned house. Apparently the Baker family (featuring Ma and Pa Baker, played by Susan Muller and Alain Smith) died there and their wicked little daughter Kristen Fougerousse's Henrietta (spelled "Henriette" on her tomb - which isn't the only mistake there) has been haunting the place with her evil little clown doll ever since.
Yeah, that's right... a doll dressed like a clown. And it's usually accompanied by just about the most annoying circus-inspired lullaby "music" one could ever fear invading the old ear-canal. What is it about bad Italian Horror movies of the 1980s that causes them to be packed with incredibly annoying music in the name of abject creepiness. I half expected ol' Dave Hess to pop up and join the chorus with a rendition of "Cindy" from House on the Edge of the Park! Actually, that would have been MUCH scarier. As it is, whenever Clowny and Hen-Hen show up, they tend to cause chaos and mild discomfort (not to mention Death) whenever they appear out of nowhere. And if you're not scared enough by the cute little clown face, every once in a while it morphs into a more evil grin with jagged little sharky teeth and wild, staring eyes. Yeah, that's... mildly more frightening.
Dudes, seriously, what's with this fear of Clowns, anyway? I get more frightened by Jar Jar Binks!
But for you out there who don't find clowning around funny, a mental patient/ caretaker named (ha ha) Valkos (Zombi Holocaust's Donald O'Brien) gets a little sickle-happy and starts stalking the meddling kids (and lots of other idiots), seemingly in an effort to help certain plot points seem even MORE contrived. Speaking of contrived, or should I say, "inept", check out the inscription on eleven year old Henrietta's mispelled tomb... 1938 - 1967... that doesn't sound like eleven years old to me. Maybe she was using the same TIME TRAVEL she used to send Jim's voice inexplicably back in time through the stupid Ham Radio. Ham!
To the credit of Lenzi, along with his screen writers Cinthia McGavin & Sheila Goldberg, and, of course, Mr. D'Amato his DAMN self, the film somehow never gets boring. It gets pathetic in the acting category, completely laughable, contrived and ridiculous, but never quite boring. Yep, I never stopped wanting to find out how this bad boy turned out. Further, though generally the special effects are both obvious and sad, on occasion they do manage to transcend their budget and look pretty decent here and there (see the "milk bath").
Also, to my surprise, Umberto Lenzi does get one more quick nod here, because not a single time did a woman get stabbed through the tits! Not once! And that's shocking for the Umbertonator! Maybe by 1988 he had mellowed in his "lady problems". Of course, that also means that not a single time did a woman get naked! Seriously, this film could have been saved with some well-placed nudity. And it's not that there weren't opportunities... Susan gets ready for a sponge bath, but is interrupted... Martha announces, gleefully, that she's going for a shower, but the cameras stick with Paul! What's the deal, here, man? Folks, one of the greatest things about bad Italian Horror Flicks is that you can always count on some great nudity. Just not here. I had to triple check to make sure I wasn't watching a Television Edit.
Again, this wrinkle in celluloid wasn't as bad as it could have been... La Casa 3 is still a DOG, but it's not the mangy, mean spirited little cur that a lot of Uncle Umberto's movies are. One thing's for sure, though... it sure as hell isn't Evil Dead 3... I don't care what experience Sliced D'Amato has with unofficial cash-in sequels. This doesn't even look vaguely like La Casa we saw in either (to date) Evil Dead flicks. Hell, this is actually the house from The House by the Cemetery, by Lucio "Zombi 2" Fulci. In fact, there's even a Fulcian Eye Popping scene early on, either for further tribute or further rip off, I'm not sure which.
Dear readers, if you couldn't get enough of Evil Dead II, I urge you to watch Army of Darkness, the REAL "Evil Dead 3". However, if your thing just happens to be Bad Italian Horror Flicks, then fear not... this one was followed by both La Casa 4, La Casa 5 and even La Casa 7 (no 6, though)! You laugh, but the fourth one starred ol' Davy Hasselhoff during a break between Knight Rider and Baywatch, so you know that one's got to be scary! See you in the next reel, Casa-squatterz!
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