Fright House isn’t a shitty movie. It’s two shitty movies in one. The first, called Fright House in a pre-meta meta way, is about devil worshippers covering up suicides. The second, Abaddon, is the worst version of Suspiria ever made. That’s not to say that the films aren’t without some charm. I just don’t want you thinking you’re getting Jean Rollin here. Or even Ruggero Deodato.
Let me try and explain what the fuck I just watched.
Fright House starts Paul Borghese as Detective Les Morane, a man who just lost his brother to suicide. His brother was a psychic or liked tarot cards or was just weird — it’s never really established, but it doesn’t matter, because he’s dead. However, the longer the film goes on, he more it seems that everyone in town is in on the Satanic cult action, letting family members die to make their lives better. “Grandpa” Al Lewis appears as Captain Levi, pretty much ad-libbing his way through his part. Turns out that he’s behind the whole thing, so if you ever wanted to see one of your favorite childhood characters become an evil cult leader, I can point you to this film. There are also a lot of 60’s style Satanism scenes, with nude women and pentagrams, if you’re into that sort of thing. Yeah, you’re into that sort of thing.
Oh — I almost forgot. There’s also copious non-Satanic nudity and a scene where frat boys fake a suicide and break into a long acted out sing-a-long of Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” There are also many digs at psychotherapy and a grave with Jason Vorhees name on it. It’s 57 minutes of your life that will feel like 57 hours.
Abaddon was also directed by Len Anthony (Murderous Intent and Vampires). It stars Duane Jones — yes, Ben from Night of the Living Dead and Dr. Hess of Ganga & Hess. He plays either a police detective or a sorcerer. According to an IMDB review, the film was shot at Long Island’s SUNY, where Jones taught acting, hence his participation.
Anyways, the film takes place at The Abaddon School (no Tanz Dance Academy, trust me) where people go to learn music. Or sing. Or act. It’s never really established. The owner, who no one ever sees, has found the fountain of youth and has to pay a terrible price for it. That price means demonic toilets eat people after they have sex.
Both movies end with a twist so bad that M. Night Shyamalan laughed.
There’s also a great part in between, after the credits for the first movie roll, that a voice says, “I’m not done frightening you yet!” Honestly, I felt like I’d been watching this for a week when that happened and the prospect that another film would begin filled me with dread.
This is the kind of film that hides behind a great box at the video store or comes on at 4:45 AM at an all-night drive-in multi-feature (yes, three hyphenated words in a row, I’m a pro). I worry that any more words that I say about this film will convince more people to watch it. I’m not that much of a sadist.
But how does it compare to Spookies (which trust me, I’ll get to), another film that combines multiple movies into one noncoherent whole? If I may paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen: Fright House, I watched Spookies. I knew Spookies. I have a Spookies poster on my wall. Fright House, you’re no Spookies.