Is that a samurai sword or are you glad to see me?
Back in old-timey Japan, a samurai discovered his wife with another man, and brutally murdered them both. In the present, American Ted Fletcher (Edward Albert, Galaxy of Terror) and his wife Laura (Susan George, Straw Dogs) come to Japan for work, and move into the same house. The ghosts of those who died there are determined to reenact what happened, turning the couple’s new home into…The House Where Evil Dwells.
Somewhere in Japan, the body of a 400-year-old samurai is found frozen in ice. He’s transported to Los Angeles, where he is miraculously revived by scientists, led by Chris Wells (Janet Julian, King of New York). Sword in hand, the samurai (Hiroshi Fujioka, Kamen Rider) escapes the science lab and wanders the streets of L.A., making a mess of things and being pursued by both cops and street thugs. He is a…Ghost Warrior.
Here is a pair of East-meets-West horror/thrillers from the pop culture connoisseurs at Shout! Factory. One promises haunted house frights, while the other promises sword-swingin’ martial arts action. Sadly, either one lives up to these promises.
To be fair, The House Where Evil Dwells is not lacking ambition. We begin with a long stretch of movie that’s slow-paced, with no dialogue, all to set up atmosphere. It’s a lot of wide shots and slow pans before erupting into sudden violence. You can practically hear the director thinking, “This is my Sergio Leone shot,” and “This is my David Lean shot,” and “This is my Akira Kurosawa shot.” After this impressive opening, however, the movie settles in to pure tedium. It wants to be a character-based, brainy horror flick like Rosemary’s Baby, but it takes itself so seriously and conducts every scene with so much self-importance, it becomes the worst kind of camp. Then, when the ghosts make their appearance, the special effect is so shoddy that it removes whatever haughty dramatic impact the filmmakers were going for. It ends with a big martial arts fight, switching from horror to action in final five minutes, but I’m guessing most audiences will have mentally checked out by then.
After the dreadfulness of The House Where Evil Dwells, I had much higher hopes for Ghost Warrior, as it comes to us from B-movie mainstay Charles Band (Puppet Master) from Band’s Empire Films days. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t have as much fun with the “ancient samurai wakes up in the modern day” premise as you’d expect. There’s one gag about him seeing a television for the first time, and wonderfully ridiculous fight with some street punks, but beyond that our time-displaced antihero is given nothing to do. Los Angeles in this film is nothing but nighttime alleys and middle-of-nowhere back roads, so don’t expect any fun stuff like the samurai hitting the beach or being bewildered by Rodeo Drive. A lot of time is spent with lady scientist Chris, as she’s the only one who wants to help the samurai when everyone else thinks he’s just a killing machine. These scenes serve only to take time away from the samurai, who we came here to see. Like The House Where Evil Dwells, Ghost Warrior takes itself way too serious, almost resistant to fun or excitement.
Both movies look terrific on Blu-ray, with clean restorations that include vivid colors, natural flesh tones and deep blacks. The House Where Evil Dwells gets mono sound while Ghost Warrior is in stereo. Both movies come with a trailer, and that’s it for extras.
Shout! Factory has been doing near-legendary work on the Scream Factory line of titles, breathing new life into a bunch of cult movie obscurities, but here are two movies so dismally dull that perhaps they are better off forgotten.
Guilty, according to the samurai code.