A ghostly samurai and his murdered wife haunt an American family living in Japan

The House Where Evil Dwells is a Japanese ghost story with an American twist. An American family moves into a Japanese home, only to end up dealing with the ghosts of a samurai and his murdered wife. Having co-starred in Enter the Ninja just the year before, the lovely Susan George stars in yet another Eastern-themed film. Directed by Kevin Connor of Motel Hell fame, this is less a straight horror film than it is a white-knuckled rumination on infidelity and betrayal.

Supposedly based on a novel by James Hardiman, The House Where Evil Dwells deals with themes and motifs familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of Japanese ghost stories. Over a century ago, a samurai comes home to find his wife cheating on him with her lover. In a fit of jealous rage, the samurai viciously kills them before committing ritual suicide.

Americans Ted (Edward Albert) and Laura (Susan George) move with their daughter to Japan for Ted’s work. Their good friend Alex (Doug McClure) has found them a great deal on a traditional Japanese home. He explains the locals think the house is cursed and haunted. The couple ignore the warnings and soon discover they aren’t alone in the house. Strange apparitions and events start playing out before their eyes.

The House Where Evil Dwells is fundamentally told from a Japanese perspective, making it a somewhat unique American ghost movie.

The Japanese ghosts in this movie are crafty, manipulating Ted, Laura, and Alex into an unwanted love triangle which makes the Americans unwitting players in a deadly game. A mysterious Japanese woman starts hitting on Ted when he’s away from his wife. Will a monk that warned the family to stay away from the home be able to rescue them from the ghosts? It quickly becomes apparent the ghosts want a reenactment of the terribly tragedy that led to their own deaths with these Americans.

This is a confident b-movie that moves along fairly quickly. Opening with a bloody murder by the samurai, it’s not particularly scary from a horror perspective. This is more of a thriller dealing with the ramifications of infidelity and the inevitable outcome dictated by the ghosts’ manipulations. That is made easier to enjoy by the vivacious Susan George as leading lady. Once again she is not shy with her body in a movie. The movie does get cheesy at times, including a ridiculously long lovemaking scene complete with orchestral scoring. Dare I mention the mechanical crabs that appear?

If the only Japanese ghost film you’ve seen is Ringu (more popularly known as The Ring in its American remake), the country has a long tradition of ghost stories that operate somewhat outside Western traditions involving ghosts. The House Where Evil Dwells is fundamentally told from a Japanese perspective, making it a somewhat unique American ghost movie. The 1982 movie isn’t great cinema but is a reasonably entertaining ghost story that should be fresher than normal for Westerners new to Japanese culture. This is a movie that has a little more going for it than the usual b-movie trash. Fairly strong, believable performances with a special nod to Susan George’s charms make up for its forgettable ghost effects.

Movie ★★★☆☆

The House Where Evil Dwells Blu-ray sceen shot 4

Scream Factory has done an excellent job with The House Where Evil Dwells’  new transfer. Proudly boasting about the new HD transfer on the back cover, it shares a single BD-50 as a double feature with Ghost Warrior. The following comments pertain solely to The House Where Evil Dwells. While Ghost Warrior received a middling picture quality upgrade, The House Where Evil Dwells looks better than it has in several decades.

The 1982 film has nice clarity and decent definition in this new film transfer. It is a film-like presentation with colors that pop and includes excellent grain reproduction. A rich contrast and solid black levels make this presentation a real winner. The 88-minute main feature is encoded in AVC at 15.92 Mbps. Aside from a wisp of chroma noise, it’s a transparent video encode that perfectly renders the film’s original grain structure.

Fine detail looks far, far better than what was seen on MGM’s older DVD edition. The film elements are in relatively sound condition, showing virtually no obvious print damage. A faint impression on the right edge of the 1.78:1 frame runs in a couple of scenes. It’s barely noticeable. There might be a slight magenta push to the flesh-tones. The opening reel looks over-baked to some degree. There is no significant processing. The new transfer doesn’t sport noticeable halos and lacks indicators regarding serious filtering.

Video ★★★★☆

The original monaural soundtrack is presented in a 2.0 dual mono DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Composer Ken Thorne, a longtime Hollywood veteran known for his work on the Superman sequels among others, provides the score. This is clear-sounding audio with average range and crisp fidelity. It does appear some of the dialogue for Ted and Laura have been looped in post-production, leading to a bit of wonkiness.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.

Audio ★★★☆☆

Scream Factory includes the same trailer found on MGM’s original DVD. This is a double feature with Ghost Warrior. Reversible cover art includes an alternate movie poster.

The House Where Evil Dwells Trailer (01:07 in upscaled HD)

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

[display_rating_form]
[display_rating_result]

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.