House of Ghosts (2012)

Rich socialites have a tradition of throwing exclusive dinner parties. This time, while stuck inside during a massive 'snowstorm of the century', they've booked a spiritual medium who promises to open a portal to the great beyond. Can the group survive the night or will ignoring the medium's warning be the last thing they ever do?

REVIEW: House of Ghosts is the 7th movie in the line-up of movies by Christopher R. Mihm, the maestro of new old, good bad movies from what's been dubbed by fans as the Mihmiverse. This micro-budget series also includes such greats as The Monster of Phantom Lake, It Came From Another World!, Cave Women on Mars, Terror From Beneath The Earth, Destination: Outer Space, and Attack of the Moon Zombies, all taking place in the same universe but mostly stand-alone from one another other then recurring side characters and the occasional throw-back to a previous movie. All are done in black and white and as a nifty love-filled throwback to the classic 1950s Drive-In B-Movies of old, so if that kind of stuff is your thing than you really can't go wrong with a Christopher R. Mihm film.

I couldn't sleep last night so I decided to throw on the next Mihmiverse movie, during which I realized it switched over across the midnight mark while in the middle of watching, making House of Ghosts the first movie I officially watched for Halloween 2013 and those circumstances could not have been more fitting. So this review is my Halloween treat to all my readers! Also, this movie totally failed as a cure for not being able to sleep... and as for exactly why, just continue reading!

To start, this entry in the Mihmiverse was done in the style of a classic William Castle horror movie (the original House on Haunted Hill, the original 13 Ghosts, The Tingler, ect), and it also came complete with Alfred Hitchcock-style intro opening with Christopher R. Mihm himself introducing the film in front of a total white background, and in a hilariously campy, yet oddly enthralling, way gave a great foreboding warning to the viewer that what they are about to witness is unnatural. He even offers a bit of a cheesy gimmick item as is par for the case of a William Castle movie. And as if that stuff didn't already set the tone right out of the gate, this intro also had some great creepy subliminal messaging going on during it, which actually continued at various strategically-timed moments throughout the movie for optimum uneasiness.

For this movie, our main cast of quirky characters are all fancy, proper, rich, snobby socialites that have gathered together for a dinner party when they decide to have a bit of fun with contacting spirits on 'the other side' when they get trapped in for the night due to a massive snowstorm outside. Right off the bat, Christopher R. Mihm has set the tone perfectly for this movie as I love horror movies that take place during snowstorms. Snow in general seems to always add an extra level of atmosphere and tension to a horror movie and I'm not really sure why. Even in not-so-good ones it manages to raise the atmosphere up a couple notches, especially if the snow is currently falling in said scene (I'm still waiting for a Friday the 13th movie set at Crystal Lake during the winter – I think that would be pretty damn awesome to see). Atmosphere aside, it was also a great and simple excuse to keep everyone stuck in the house all night, unable to leave during the terrifying events that end up taking place (and the one person who does try it anyway ends up freezing to death out there). I also really loved that once the experiment to open the portal to the Beyond 'failed' (or so they thought, anyway) and everyone starts going their own ways in the house, that's when the mysterious unexplainable events start happening and it kind of turned into a nice Scooby-Doo style mystery of people going missing (or eventually outright dying), and the characters having to band together and figure out if one of the missing people was really behind the events, trying to scare everyone for some sure-to-be-explained evil reason, or is it really supernatural forces that had been let loose? I'm not going to say which one it was, but it certainly had be guessing, second-guessing, and even third-guessing myself right up to the very end.

The entire package here really was genuinely creepy and unnerving at times, and that totally separates this from all the previous Mihmiverse movies that came before, which were mostly all played up for laughs (not to worry though, as there are still a few hilarious moments sprinkled throughout). I'm not really sure if it was due to the fact that I was watching this after the midnight hour when everything seems extra-creepy anyway, or if it was because of the subliminal messaging that kept popping up, or if it was actually just that good at being creepy, or a combination of all those things, but whatever the case was it worked. Despite being able to, at all times, see the purposeful cheapness of the effects (The living skeleton is clearly plastic, the excellently-crafted demon skull is clearly a rubber latex mask, the killer spider horde is clearly rubber spiders on strings) yet the scenes which deal with each of those things (and other creepy goodies I have not yet mentioned) still manage to get your heart racing and leave you about this close to clutching the armrest of your couch. I know all the Mihmiverse movies are made with families kept in mind, and that a lot of people are sharing these movies with their kids, but I honestly would recommend watching this one yourself first to see if your younger kids can handle it. I only give that recommendation because I'm a long-time horror vet and even I was fairly spooked and on-edge for parts of this movie, and found myself damn near in a panic attack come the zombie-infested climax. The fact that this is a B-Movie, on a micro-budget, that's purposefully-campy and cheesy aside...Christopher R. Mihm (and all involved for that matter) did one hell of a great job with the spooky atmosphere with this one, making this the perfect movie for me to be watching as the clocks moved us into the witching hour and having it officially be Halloween.

Oh, and in true William Castle style, there's a nice twist ending as well, which I kind of suspected there would be and spent parts of the movie trying to figure out exactly what it would be, but I'm glad to report that it's totally not something you'll easily be able to see coming and it certainly took me by surprise.

This entry is no different than the previous Mihmiverse movies in that it is filled with tons of familiar actors of the Mihmiverse, however they're all playing brand new characters this go-around. Sadly the one sour point I have with this movie is that none of these new characters were really likeable much, or memorable. That's not a knock against the actors as they all played the rolls perfectly, and I understand the entire point of these characters are that they're rich snobs and by extension unrelatable and unlikable, but I really could have done with something in their character traits to latch onto and find likeable (Mike Cook's character started to get there by the end). As it stands, I was actually looking forward to seeing every single one of these characters get taken out, and unfortunately none of them will really stick out in my memory quite like the majority of previous characters in this universe have.

What I did like with these characters though, were despite being new characters they still had some nice connections to previous characters of the series: The very original movie, The Monster of Phantom Lake, got a really great throw-back in that one of the characters here is actually the mother of the crazy hermit from that movie that ended up becoming the title monster, and you just know that with such a connection in a movie dealing with ghosts and the afterlife that the Algae Monster itself would thus be making a nice little cameo appearance. Michael Kaiser (the man under pretty much every monster suit in this series) also popped in for a cameo as either a relative of his cop character from Terror From Beneath The Earth, or as that exact character. Admittedly, I don't remember his character's name from that movie so I'm a bit fuzzy there as to which one it is, but either way I enjoyed the connection to that movie. Finally, there was a briefcase held by a character that I can't really go into any detail of without going into a bit of spoiler territory, but if you pay close attention there's a great connection with that briefcase to the previous movie, Attack of the Moon Zombies (even with just that little bit, I fear I gave away a bit too much). So despite all the characters being new to the series, and I doubt we'll ever see most (if any) again, there are still some strong connections tying this entry in with the other movies of the series.

As is expected with by this point with all movies in the Mihmiverse, this self-produced DVD is stacked right up with tons of excellent bonus content. There's a Blooper Reel that is admittedly a bit shorter than most of the other ones but is still laugh-out-loud hilarious (seriously, by this point I almost look forward to the side-splittingly funny outtakes almost more then I do the movie itself because they're always a great treat to watch directly after the movie), a pretty funny Alternate Ending that fans of Attack of the Moon Zombies like me are sure to love but I'm personally glad they didn't go that route as it would have ruined the flow of the atmospheric mood that the movie had set so perfectly, a trailer for the movie in addition to trailers for some previous movies in the Mihmiverse, a Photo Gallery of tons of Behind-the-Scenes photos, an introduction to the film by Horror Host Dr. Ivan Cryptosis, a Featurette on the actual real house that they filmed this movie in which was owned by recurring Mihmiverse actress Sid Korpi and her husband, and the usual informative full length Audio Commentaries, one by just Christopher R. Mihm by himself and a second one where he's joined by costume designer and SFX artist Mitch Gonzales and Behind the Scenes extraordinaire Cherie “Rhuby” Gallinati who anyone that listens to the Mihmiverse Bonfire Podcast will instantly recognize the voice of.

I honestly can't think of a more fitting movie to have broken in Halloween 2013 with, nor of a more perfect tribute to William Castle. Even as a long-time horror vet, House of Ghosts had me near full-on having a panic attack by the end and I wouldn't ask it to be any other way! The more serious spooktacular nature of this entry makes it quite unique from all previous Mihmiverse movies, and I think it just might fit in perfectly as the newest entry of my Annual Halloween movie Line-Up each year.

Seeing as how most of the advertising for these movies come from simple word of mouth from the fans, than if you do check his stuff out and enjoy it please help get the word out there on these movies and hopefully we can snag in a few other fans that may not even realize these exist. You can order these on DVD (and even BluRay for this movie and the following one!) over at his official site which is filled with all sorts of other goodies as well (including a monthly newsletter in addition to a very laid back, yet fun and informative, podcast). Hell, there's even an excellent deal on right now – Buy Three Movies, Get One Free, which seeing as how there's currently eight of these titles, if you do that twice then that is the perfect way to catch up with all of them and in the end save some dough – that's how I did it.

Suffice to say, this movie did absolutely nothing to cure my sleep troubles last night, and it pretty much had me on edge to the point where I ended up just staying awake until the sun came up - Happy Halloween everyone!

9/10 rooms in the Psych Ward


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