The Houses of Doom Series

Monday, 28 December 2015

Back in the late 1980s Umberto Lenzi and Lucio Fulci were commissioned by Italian television channel, Reitalia Television, to make two films each as part of a series entitled Le case Maledette known in English as The Houses of Doom or The Doomed Houses series. Reitalia's brief for the four films was simple - they were to be horror films each set in a "haunted house". This simple setting would set the stage for four tales of supernatural mystery, violent murder and revenge that were tied to their similar settings and themes. The four films that form the Houses of Doom series were made in 1989 and were intended to be shown on Reitalia that same year. However, when completed, the films in question were deemed to be too violent for transmission by Reitalia and were subsequently scrapped for television viewing. In order to recoup the costs of both productions, the films were subsequently given a cinematic release in Italy and were sold to international home video markets such as Japan. Unfortunately, the films failed to garner much attention or interest and are now regarded as weaker entires in Fulci and Lenzi's oeuvres, thought of as cheap television horror. There has been little demand for a release of the films in the DVD/Blu ray market however, cut versions of all four films were released by UK label, Vipco in a Houses of Doom box set in the early 2000s.

Recommended for only hardcore fans of Italian horror, the Houses of Doom series is representative of the dying Italian film industry looking suitably low budget and lacking the finesse of both directors earlier works. The House of Clocks is, in my opinion, the best film of the series with a very nice premise that would have benefited from a higher budget. Although varying in quality and looking suitably tired and dated, there's still something interesting in each film that makes them worth a watch if you're a fan of Italian horror or of Fulci and Lenzi's work. The occasional inventive set piece, interesting idea and unintentional moment of comedy makes each film worth at least, a casual watch.

In the discussion of the Houses of Doom series there is some confusion over whether some of Lenzi's films from the eighties are categorised as entires in the series. Lenzi released a film titled "Ghosthouse" aka "La Casa" aka Evil Dead 3" in 1988 and its English title and close release date to the Houses of Doom series sometimes causes it to be categorised as part of the series. Ghosthouse is instead considered as part of an unofficial Italian Evil Dead series and is not part of Lenzi's work for Reitalia. The House of Witchcraft was named as Ghosthouse 4 in Germany adding to the overall confusion over which series the film belonged to.

The House of Clocks (1989) Dir: Lucio Fulci

Often considered as the best film of the series, Lucio Fulci's The House of Clocks (La casa nel tempo) is perhaps the most well known entry in The Doomed Houses series and has been released as a stand alone film by several labels including Vipco, Beyond Terror and Shriek Show. 

The second part of the Doomed Houses trilogy, The House of Clocks tells the story of an elderly couple who live in a luxurious villa filled with clocks. One day a group of lowlife thugs break into the couple's home and murder the elderly couple but all is not as it seems as the second the old man dies the clocks begin to tick backwards and the tables begin to turn...


The Sweet House of Horrors (1989) Dir: Lucio Fulci

The Sweet House of Horrors (La dolce casa degli orrori) is the second film directed by Lucio Fulci in the series and has a similar premise to the aforementioned House of Clocks. Both House of Clocks and Sweet House of Horrors take the idea of a murderous home invasion and use this initial premise to tell a story of revenge and retribution. In The Sweet House of Horrors, a group of burglars break into a family's country home, murdering the parents leaving children, Marco and Sarah as orphans. Left in the care of their aunt and uncle, the children are reluctant to leave the house when their new guardians attempt to sell the estate. Supernatural scares ensue as the spirits of the children's parents return to the house to enact revenge on the ones who wronged them.

The Sweet House of Horrors feels different to Fulci's other films but still has some enjoyable moments and a fairy tale, surreal like feel making it the weirdest entry in the series. There's some decent gore effects as well as some laughable ones as you'd expect with low budget eighties horror fare. The film had a UK DVD release under Vipco and a North American release under the Shriek Show label.


The House of Lost Souls (1989) Dir: Umberto Lenzi

Umberto Lenzi's first entry to the series, The House of Lost Souls (La casa delle anime erranti) deviates away from the familial revenge theme of Fulci's contributions to the series and opts for a more classic approach to the haunted house sub genre of horror. The House of Lost Souls centres on a group of geologists who end up staying at a run down motel after becoming stranded on their travels. Stuck in a run down motel with a dark past and a suspicious owner, the group begin to feel uneasy when geologist, Carla begins to have violent visions. Before long the group start to be picked off one by one in a variety of imaginative ways by the ghosts who inhabit the motel.

Although it lacks gore, The House of Lost Souls still has some imaginative death scenes including a memorable decapitation by washing machine. The film ticks along at a decent enough pace and has enough moments of unintentional humour and classic one liners to make this the type of enjoyable shlock that we've come to expect from Lenzi at this stage in his career. Interestingly, the film recycles music from Lamberto Bava's Demons (1985) which seems to work in the film's favour.


The House of Witchcraft (1989) Dir: Umberto Lenzi

Lenzi's second film in the series, The House of Witchcraft (La casa del sortilegio) is in my opinion, the worst entry of the series. The film contains little in the way of gore and its slow pacing, predictable plot and lacklustre production makes for a frustrating watch. However, as par with the course of the series, there's enough humour and the occasional unsettling Freudian tinged moment to make this worth at least a casual watch.

The film centres around our protagonist, Luke, a man who keeps having the same reoccurring dream in which he finds himself in an old house inhabited by an old, witch like woman. The old hag chases him around the dilapidated house before finally catching him and boiling his head in her cauldron like pot. It should come as no surprise then, when Luke's wife books a romantic get away in an old house in the country that it's the very same house from his nightmares. Reality begins to mirror Luke's dreams as his nightmarish visions begin to come to life in all of their horrible splendour.




4 comments:

  1. Cheers on this fantastic blog! Michael Mackenzie made me aware of it, in the course of doing some essay work for him--I've added it to my blog roll and look forward to spending time exploring your archive of posts.

    Re: Neo-Gialli, I've just watched DISCOPATHE, which definitely calls back to the "Schoolgirls in Peril" sub-genre of the Giallo. Also, FYI, there's a Letterboxd user putting together a Giallo Buyer's Guide, which has some great info on the various Giallo releases out there. Here's to watching more Gialli in 2016!

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    1. Wow thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my blog! I've come across your blog in the past when I've tried to do a little bit of research on Krimi and was staggered by your level of knowledge. You have a wonderful site and I can't wait to look at it in more detail. When I get to my computer I will be sure to add you to my own blog roll.

      Thank you for the links, the buyers guide will be particularly useful as I can't seem to keep up with all of the releases coming out. I haven't come across that film but I'm working on revising my list so I will definitely check it out.

      Thank you once again, an honour!

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    2. Many thanks for your kind words! I've been inactive on my blog for the past few months, on account of real-life headaches, but I'm starting to get back into the swing of things ... and it's always exciting to find another Giallo fan to talk to--cheers!

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  2. I actually liked Sweet House Of Horrors the most, since it's so weird and is an unlikely mix between children's fairytale (why otherwise would those adorable little cretins be the main focus) and gory horror. The last 10 minutes are pure gold and it ends perfectly!

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