My regular movie pen pal wrote to inform me that this movie was hootworthy and available on Netflix streaming, and that the lead male has a stache and may be right up my alley. Obviously I stopped work immediately--mustaches MUST take precedence--and watched the trailer. Turns out the lead male does have a stache, but is otherwise an UBER-dork, but the trailer featured cheesy double-exposed ghosts, Susan George, and other cheesiness, but what moved it right to the top of my consideration were the giant fake crabs. Giant Crabs? I'm gonna watch that shit RIGHT NOW.
Okay, so this is about Americans in a Japanese haunted house... and notice how the DVD cover art is a recreation of the poster for The Grudge.
So we open in Japan in 1940. This Japanese woman in the older traditional robes welcomes her lover into her home while her husband is out. They look at this little ceramic figure of the devil fucking a woman (my grandma had that one among her Hummel collection), then they play music, then they eat dried fish, and it's like--HELLO?!?! Are you guys gonna FUCK, or what? You have this guy sneak in so you can eat dried fish, is that it? They finally do, though it looks like a quite tepid affair. Maybe it's supposed to seem historical if they don't have any fun? Anyway, turns out the husband forgot his lucky Hawaiian shirt or whatever because he comes back and hears the sounds of passion. He whips out his samurai sword and--oh dear, he's not terribly effective with that thing AT ALL, is he? He's hitting the pillows and the bamboo and everything but his victim. He finally beheads the suitor, then kills the wife, all while making this long "Eeeeeeeaaaaaaaaagggghhhhhh!" groan. He then kills himself.
Fast-forward to the early 80s This family moves to Japan for the husband's work. He is supposedly a journalist and why he has to be in Japan is really anyone's guess, but there you are. They are husband Ted, douche with the stache we discussed earlier, whose eyes are spread wide apart and just looks like, well, a douche. That's really all there is to it. He's married to Susan George as Laura, who is insipid and wears this horrendous frosted lipstick that only draws attention to the fact that her mouth looks like it is constantly puckering in disgust. The friend who recommended this to me had a crack about how when she wants to express emotion, she just opens her mouth wider. With them is daughter Amy, and they are accompanied by friend Alex, the guy who found Ted this job and the house. He tells them that the house is considered haunted, a fact that they will be told repeatedly and studiously ignore despite all the freaky shit that befalls them.
So soon lights are going on and off, doors are opening and closing, people are feeling weird, etc. Hmm, maybe it has something to do with the house being haunted? Nah, can't be that. Then this priest with a wimpy, high-pitched voice comes to warn them that the house is haunted. But when more freaky stuff happens--gee, WHY? It's so INEXPLICABLE. Meanwhile we are actually seeing the three ghosts walking around the house, in stunning double-exposure. They all three seem to get on swimmingly, now that they're dead. Then one of the ghosts steps into Laura and possesses her for a moment, and Laura comes on to Alex. Uh-oh, I can see where this is headed. Soon Laura and Alex are making out at a party, while Ted is off doing business deals.
Soon Laura is at home facing the Satanic Sink (that comes on suddenly and spatters her). Then the husband is almost stabbed with a samurai sword, and sees the ghost of the woman. Somewhere in here Laura gets possessed by the woman again and calls up Alex to make big come-ons. Then we have some flashback to see that the Japanese woman stabbed this old gypsy witch or whatever back in the day in order to steal the Hummel figurine of the devil fucking a woman--which Laura found after all these years, by the way. Are we supposed to make out that this figurine is behind all this?
The next night at dinner the ghosts are hanging around once again, and when poor little Amy goes to drink her soup, there's a face in it. She says, quite sensibly, "There's a horrible face in my soup." It may only be later when you realize what an incredibly stupid sentence this is, especially if you take it out of context. Anyway, one of the other spirit inhabits dad and makes him get up and force the girl to drink the good soup mommy made! Soup is good food, bitch!
The next day Ted goes to watch these women with baskets tied to themselves dive for something--not quite clear, but he's taking a bunch of pictures of stuff (I thought he was a writer?) and falling into some sort of trance. Then he gets pulled in and one of the women tries to drown him. Meanwhile Laura calls Alex over and they have what my friend says "can only be described as rutting." Later daughter Amy has a young friend over to stay the night (and when or where did she make this friend?) and for some reason, Laura has to go out, leaving the two kids alone. Her advice to them is "take care of each other." Oh I see, yeah, they don't need adult supervision, they can just take care of each other. So it's perfectly fine to leave two eight-year-olds unattended. Totally. Sure. They fall asleep, but soon awaken to find the entire house invaded by crabs, including these two big crabs the size of dinner plates that mutter in Japanese as they menace. Amy gets chased up a tree, but the crab climbs up after her, until finally she falls out, cracking her head open and spewing her brains out like yesterday's rotten fish. Actually no, she just has a concussion or whatnot. The parents show up in the morning and, like all parents who leave their kids unattended for long periods of time, in the house they know to be haunted, are STUNNED that something bad should have happened.
So then Ted is at home writing away when a mask falls off the wall and hits Laura. She goes in and says they have to leave the house, but the movie is now grasping for a shade of The Shining as Ted is supposedly obsessed with his story, which he has shown no evidence of up to this time, nor have we seen him writing up until now. He says okay, we'll leave tomorrow. It's always tomorrow, right? Ted has a priest come by to deliver some incantations and shoo the ghosts outside into the garden. He then tells them not to open the door for any reason. Can you guess what might happen?
Soon Laura blurts out of nowhere that she's had an affair with Alex. Seriously she just sits down and shouts it out. And it's impossible not to reflect that everything would have worked out fine if she hadn't been feeling quite so confessional. And as Hall and Oates once so sagely advised, Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid. Anyway, guess who should come calling RIGHT at that moment? Why, it's Alex. So what does Ted do? He opens the door, letting Alex, and the ghosts, back in. Before we know it, the two guys are possessed by the ghosts and have a samurai sword fight, complete with more violence against pillows and bamboo room accents. Soon Ted administers the old two-sword decap-o-matic, and Alex's head goes flying. A reader on the IMDb saw this as part of a post-Omen favor for decapitations. Ted then kills Laura, then himself. Then the ghosts, satisfied at last, leave the house, and that's the end. All we're missing is little Amy waking up in the hospital, and some hint that she's now some sort of devil child. We've hit every other cliche, why not this one?
So it was all-round terrible, but suffused with enough bad-movie fun to make it endurable and even amusing. Everywhere you turn, some cheesy element brought in from another movie, with visible, highly active ghosts, numerous momentary possessions, and all manner of ghostly manifestations, all brought to life with horrid, wooden acting. Throughout, the characters refuse to face that the house is haunted--it's perfectly fine to leave kids unattended there, for instance--until suddenly they do. Luckily by that time things have escalated to giant crabs muttering in Japanese, so there's more to be amused by. It's not the greatest bad movie, but it's a good-enough bad movie, with a steady stream of amusingly awful elements. Good in a pinch.
If you like bad haunted house movies, sure.