Sunday, June 14, 2009

Boardinghouse (1982)

...aka: Boarding House
...aka: Family House
...aka: Housegeist

Directed by:
Johnn Wintergate

BOARDING HOUSE (aka HOUSEGEIST), was the first ever shot-on-tape no budget horror film to come out at the start of the growing video/beta revolution, so it's historically important in that respect, I guess. However, on its own terms it is undoubtedly one of the worst movies in existence. But boy, it sure is freakin' hilarious! This is the funniest and tackiest bad 80s movie I've seen in a very long time. It's also very, very entertaining if you can just make it past the first fifteen minutes or so, which involves reading a slowwww scroll on an ancient computer screen that's hard to make out, some horrid special effects of a red phantom face and supernatural spirits causing a guy to drown in a pool, a woman to ram her hand down a garbage disposal, a hanging and someone pulling out their guts. The film centers around one person obviously head over heels in love, and I don't mean head over heels in love with someone else, but head over heels in love with himself. And that person is director Johnn Wintergate, who also wrote the horrendous screenplay (under the name "Jonema"), did some of the cheesy special effects and also gets to show his complete lack of on-screen appeal playing the starring role (as "Hawk Adly"). It's a classic combination of huge ego meets nonexistent talent, and in the shot-on-video universe, fancying yourself a big fish in a small pond usually either provokes anger or hilarity. In this case, it's the latter!

Wintergate plays Jim Royce, who works in some office setting by day but chooses to spend his summer running an exclusive boarding house near L.A. He makes the decision early on only to rent the rooms out to young, attractive women... and his ridiculous house rules state the ladies cannot have a man up to their rooms. Well, except for him. Nearly all the women in this movie want to get him in the sack, try to seduce him and fawn over his "hot body" and what an interesting person he is because he's into all this New Age mumbo jumbo and metaphysics. Making this whole concept more than a little hard to swallow is the fact that Wintergate looks like a mutant version of Malcolm McDowell. He's scrawny, middle-aged, bug eyed and has bushy, bleached out hair with a rat tail. Not only that, but he's sporting some of the lamest fashions of the era; pink shirts, pink ties, pink daisy dukes and worst of all, skimpy bikini briefs, some of the tiger stripe variety. Every other scene he's lounging by the pool in bikini briefs or meditating wearing bikini briefs or running around on the beach in bikini briefs. There are even two scenes of him hanging upside down in some silly looking contraption wearing his patented skimpy undies. The horror! The horror! Jim also has the gift of telekinesis and can move things like soap and eggs around using the power of his mind. To accomplish this he goes into the zen zone, does some heavy breathing and bugs out his eyes in deep concentration. As if this isn't enough, Wintergate also gets to play an additional supporting role as a 'Nam vet gardener, who basically just wanders around outside scaring the girls.

Now Johnn isn't the only person here getting maximum screen time, so is lead actress Kalassu Kay. I think she may be involved romantically with the director in "real life" (perhaps they are or were married) because the two both had small roles in the 1980 film TERROR ON TOUR a few years earlier and both get special thanks credits on a 2007 movie according to IMDb. I could be mistaken, though. Anyway, Kalassu is just one of many ladies to take residence inside Jim's boarding house of horrors. The difference between her and the other females is that she's the only one to get any kind of character development. Her role is Victoria; a multi-talented actress and singer with a band called 33 1/3. Hilariously, she sleeps in a room with blown-up pictures of herself plastered all over the walls. Hey sister, why not just save yourself the trouble and strap a mirror on the ceiling? Kalassu seems to be a main target of evil spirits and is visited by some red eyed demon on occasion. She has multiple nightmares, is frequently seen topless or in skimpy lingerie, her kitten is smashed to death with a hammer and she also learns how to move things around by reading Jim's books.

The other ladies living in the boarding house include sexy blonde Deborah (played by Penthouse Pet Alexandra Day), a compulsive gardener (?) with a hard to place European accent, Sandy (Belma Kora), who, uh, likes to bake pies, Cindy (Mary McKinley), who is there to escape her rapist thug boyfriend, and Pam (Cindy Williamson), a frizzy haired blonde with hideously overdone makeup who gets stabbed through the hand with an ice pick. In addition, some other women pop in an out from time to time. One is black. She makes a pot of coffee, leaves and is never seen again. There's also an Asian woman who materializes out of thin air to seduce a guy ("You look wet. Let me dry you off."), take a bath and then she disappears from the rest of the film also. There seem to be a few other women around sometimes but it was hard to keep track of all of them. By the way, this same house is the place where a Nobel prize winning scientist and his wife (the drowning/garbage disposal deaths from the beginning) were killed years earlier. One of the ladies is the daughter of that couple and is using supernatural/telekinetic powers to injure or kill off the others, resulting in one of the most hilarious finales ever captured on film, er, video. And apparently at one point this managed to book theatrical showings back in the day!

In short, the dialogue is atrocious, the acting is abominable (check out the numerous monotone reactions to the "horror"), the storyline is senseless, the whole thing looks like a porno movie, it's full of cheap gore effects, cheap visual effects, continuity errors, nudity, flubbed lines and cheesy synthesizer sound effects (did I mention it was filmed in "Horror Vision?"). All in all, hilariously awful stuff and a must see for bad movie fanatics.


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