The Shunned House; aka, H. P. Lovecraft's The Shunned House (La Casa sfuggita, 2002) purports to be based on three Lovecraft stories, "The Shunned House," "The Music of Eric Zann," & "Dreams in the Witch House." The inspiration can be detected, but only at distant parallels.
Filmed in Italian, released for English-speaking audiences dubbed into English with heavy Italian accents, the acting ranges from average to awful. The performance mediocrity is likely a side-effect of dubbing, though the voices are as well done as ever likely for a cheapo horror film, & the greater problems here are clumsy editing & a dreadful script.
It begins as a fairly standard haunted house story with Alex (Giuseppe Lorusso) the psychic investigator assisted by busty babe Rita (Federica Quaglieri). Rita's right boob is always on the verge of popping out, & she never seems quite certain why she's in the script, let alone in the house.
The cinematography is muddy at best, & the overall look of the piece made me think of daytime soap operas adding bad lighting to imply a bit of the gothic. Staging was sometimes accidentally amusing, as when long-unused hallways are lit by flaming torches & no one wonders "Who the hell lit these flaming torches?"
The house has claimed many victims over its history, permitting a script to toss in anything about anyone without much in the way of continuity or comprehensible storyline.
It's so badly written & edited it's hard to know what's going on when, as the history is conveyed by flashback combinations of ghostly re-enactments witnessed by Rita, memories of Alex who'd been here as a kid, & Alex envisioning events described in a history of the house which we are forced unbarably to watch him reading for long static patches while Rita smokes cigarette after cigarette. When the long patches of nothing said or done end, it's often for a long patch of moronic dialogue.
Then we're apt to jump into one or another historical period for the house, with no one having a clue how to distinguish time-periods or track characters.
All this muddle is broken up by very brief scenes of gory ghosts -- a sad woman with bloody mouth sewn shut, a bloody corpse strung up on the stairwell, a very bloodied masked psycho, & so on.
If the intent was to produce a slasher, the gorehounds will likely be left wishing it had existed in more than brief images. If the point was to make a Lovecraftian film of mood & terror, gore was entirely the wrong direction for such evocation.
A fragmentary bit of Lovecraft's badly transmuted "Witch House" intrudes in a time line that shows us an ugly landlady & her tenants, who are never anything but boring. The landlady uses the same bad-actor shtick with cigarettes as does Rita.
"The Music of Eric Zann" intrudes in one of the more elaborate flashbacks, featuring no Eric but mute Carlotta Zann (Cristiana Vaccaro ), whose crazed violin playing either attracts or repels unknown, unseen mysteries. This portion of the film could've been successful if it didn't still rely on images of gore rather than sustained mystery. As it is, it's just another disjointed element of a kitchen-sink approach to tossing in lots of extra victims of the house.
Not that it doesn't try for atmosphere. The ill-lit, as opposed to shadowed, soap opera videography strives so hard for atmosphere that it's pitiable how badly it fails.
Eventually Alex gets sucked into the wall & busty Rita witnesses a veritable parade of blood-soaked ghosts like in a Halloween play put on junior highschool kids.
In the end, having written a script that makes no sense whatsoever, the best they could come up with to explain it all is "hallucinogenic mold." A better explanation would've just been "inept storytelling."
Continue to more H. P. Lovecraft:
The Resurrected (1992)
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