(Release Date: July 31, 1990 [Italy])
This is the reason we have a film called Alien 2 that was released in Italy six years before Aliens hit theatres. This is also why we have a film called Zombi 2 released as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead (AKA: Zombi) six years before Day of the Dead came out. It's also why we have a barely related Zombi 3 and a scarcely peripherally related Zombie 4, both in the same year of 1988. And, yes, it's also why we have a Zombie 5 that was released prior to either Zombie 4 or Zombi 3 as well as a Zombie 6 that was released just after Zombi 2 (and is actually a sequel to a completely unrelated movie).
This brings us (kicking, clawing, spitting, screaming and grinding our teeth) to La Casa 5 a terrible movie from Claudio Fragasso (director of Zombie 4), Rossella Drudi (writer of Zombi 3 and Hell of the Living Dead) and Joe D'Amato (director of Zombie 5 and Zombie 6 and producer of La Casa 3 and Para Nel Buio).
La Casa 5 is also known as Beyond Darkness or Buio Omega (which sounds familiar), and purports to occasionally be a stand-alone film, but much more commonly attempts to package itself as a chapter in both the Evil Dead saga and the House saga, hence its occasional (even more familiar) packaging as Evil Dead 5 and House 5. To be fair, The Evil Dead was released in Italy as La Casa before Evil Dead II was released in the same country as La Casa 2. Before Army of Darkness came out, Sliced D'Amato and company threw La Casa 3 onto Italian Scream Screens, possibly fooling the mentally deranged. The connection to House is even more dubious.
In truth, La Casa 5 resembles either series almost as much as I resemble The Sphinx! Not that this stopped our friends around the remnants of The Roman Empire who released House II The Second Story as La Casa 6 amongst other things and House III as La Casa 7! Would it be too many layers to tell you that House III is, itself, an unofficial sequel to House and was originally named The Horror Show? Perhaps, but it might make you feel just a little bit better to note that House IV was never renamed to cash in, even on its own series in Italy, instead being named "Chi Ha Ucciso Roger?"
All that background and we still haven't touched on the plot. Don't worry, you've seen this one before. A devout Catholic (we think) Priest named Father George (David Brandon) prepares to hear the confession of a convicted, amoral serial killer at the State Prison in Louisiana (and, no, I'm not related to her). The thing is, the crazy old bitch doesn't want any Last Rites or absolution. It seems she only wants to brag about the fact that she is dragging the souls of the children she killed down into Hell with her as she's fried in the Electric Chair. She does thank Father George for playing, though and even has an ugly parting gift for him in the form of her Satanic Bible.
Soon, in what sure-as-swatting seems like a completely different movie, another minister named Father Peter moves into a creepy NEW house. It's nice, as a change of pace, to see a creaky new place instead of the dank old money-pits we usually get for our Haunted Houses. Countrywide must've made some good loans on those around that time, right? Anyway, his move-in comes with a few revelations. The first is that he's played by Gene LeBrock, who started his spazmoid career by starring in the diaper discovery known as Fortress of Amerikkka! The second is that he moves into the house with his wife Annie (Barbara Bingham) and their two annoying kids, which means that it's just shy of impossible for him to be a Catholic Priest (in spite of the fact that he's of the same order as George, who is referred to as an Exorcist). The third revelation is that (drumroll) the house is haunted, so they'll probably be needing that exorcist P.D.Q.!
The problem is, we soon learn, Georgie Porgie Puddin' and Vespers has been driven insane by his brief meeting with the annoying child-killer he tried to help just before her execution. Talk about not being able to move on. I wonder if it had anything to do with that douchy Satanic Bible she palmed him. I honestly have to wonder why in the name of Timothy Fuck he kept the damned thing, really. If he found it so repulsive, why keep it around? If someone handed me a magazine filled with Gay Porn, I'd have to hand that thing off to somebody else right away, or just toss it. Why does Padre Georgio boggart the dark book?
Okay, okay, the correct answer is "WHO CARES?"
In an attempt to begin ripping off Poltergeist, Rosella and Claudio (listed as "Sarah Asproon" and - ha, ha - "Drago Floyd" in the writing credits) show us how strange things start happening in the house, starting in the children's room. Then these strange things get more and more pronounced to the point that the family is actually attacked by a possessed radio and (in a terrible special effect) a flying meat cleaver. Fr. Peter's response goes barely past "Well that's weird, ain't it?" as his family barely survives these poorly imagined sequences. Hey, Pete, take a page from The Amityville Horror and "For GOD's SAKE GET OUT!" But he doesn't! If you think that's stupid, check out what happens when he brings this up to his superior. Reverend Jonathan (Stephen Brown) tries to both convince Peter to stay in the house AND that Satan and his power to haunt homes with his dark disciples are all very real. It's like "Don't worry, don't worry, there IS a Devil and he haunts people's homes causing symptoms exactly like those you describe, but stay, stay, I'm sure it's just a coincidence!" Hmmmm. So is Jonathan stupid or is he just convinced that Peter is? Possibly both.
As time goes on and the haunting gets stronger, so do the pilfered plot points. From the evil spirits' unhealthy obsession with one of the children, to the cheap FX answer to the better scenes in Poltergeist to the familiar tag-team Exorcism that Peter and George engage in, all of this has been done before and by better people. When the weirdo Zombie Witch Bitches (led by our deceased serial killer) finally turned up to offer a potentially-interesting scare-fest, I started to realize I'd even seen their costumes before in other Bad Italian Horror Movies! It all rolls down through the pipes to a silly-ass finish that manages to be both Predictable and Forgettable at the same time.
This might be why ol' Fried Green D'Amato again went uncredited on La Casa 5, leaving Achille Manzotti as the sole credited producer. Look, I sympathize with the people involved with this film, but I wouldn't want my name on La Casa 5 either! No way in Hell, man! The only real mystery about the fact that Joe-To-The-D went uncredited on both La Casa 3 and La Casa 5 is the strange fact that he proudly let his name brightly shine on La Casa 4! Yeah, that one was MUCH better! Still not as good as The Evil Dead or even House, but good enough for smiling Joe D'Amato to cradle to his bosom and call his own.
I just don't get it, folks! How is it that Italy's Filoni industry has produced some of the greatest filmmakers of all time, like Rossellini, Fellini and Antonioni and some of the best action, fantasy and drama directors out there like Leone, Bava and De Sica, yet this other tradition (one of crap) has overshadowed so much of the history of Italian Cinema. The concept of giving a pen to those who can't write, the script to those who can't act, the helm to those who can't direct and the camera to those who can't shoot simply does not strike me as a good marketing move. Yet these films are still being watched and by... well... by me!
One last quick note on the identity of this waste of VHS tape. Please be aware that the above synopsis and review are accurate and well-researched. I say this because there are many places that this film is described completely wrong. At the time of this writing, the Wikipedia Entry on this film has the credits somewhat accurately represented, but lists the plot as being one about a young man digging up his lover's corpse on the beautiful Italian Countryside. I have no idea what movie that is the plot of, but it's not La Casa 5 by any title. Understandable? Sure, it's Wikipedia! However, take note, it gets worse! Not being able to find this film on DVD anywhere, I tracked down a VHS copy from Canada, entitled Beyond Darkness. Yes, this is definitely the right one, right on down to the directing credit to "Clyde Anderson" (good old Claudio's Americanized Pseudonym). The synopsis on the back cover of this "EP" tape described discoveries about victims of Oliver Cromwell's Inquisition! Way to go, Imperial Video! You don't even watch your own product. And no, that's not sarcasm! I wish I hadn't watched the damned thing.
This is because, by any name, with any synopsis, La Casa 5 is a DOG! The one silver lining is that, in spite of the fact that there are movies called La Casa 6 and La Casa 7, both of these had already been made before La Casa 5, so this is the last one in the "Series"! We should be thankful that at last, La Casa has been Foreclosed upon! See what I go through for you readers? I'm watching BAD MOVIES so you don't have to and I didn't even get a Christmas Card or a nude video from most of you! That's gratitude for you! The truth is, I know these are more fun to read about than to actually watch! Take advantage and skip the flicks, leaving me to my haunt to watch and write about them. Yeah, it's painful, but any way you possess it, I'll still see you in the next reel!
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