Now here's a dubious distinction: 1982's Boarding House ("Where the rent won't kill you, but something else will"), just out from Code Red DVD claims to be the first horror film to be shot on video, and this little oddity actually played theaters for a time. If you've never seen old school video tape blown up to 35 millimeter and projected on the big screen, you would be surprised at just how hideous the final product is. I saw the Rolling Stones documentary/concert film Gimme Shelter which was transferred this way, and I was amazed how grainy and washed out the image was. Code Red has made a smart decision going back to the original video materials rather than using the version that had been transferred to film, as was done with the old Paragon Video VHS tape (a release that the filmmakers insist was done illegally). The video version isn't perfect either, but this is probably the best this film will ever look.
Boarding House was promoted as being presented in "Horror Vision", a William Castle-esque gimmick that is explained at the opening of the film. Whenever the viewer hears a specific sound effect or sees a shot of a black-gloved hand with a Dr. Who-level video effect accompanying it, that means something scary is about to happen. This, along with the film's disjointed nature, are explained by Director/star John Wintergate and his co-star Kalassu, when they point out on the commentary track that the movie had been shot as a horror spoof, but the distributor insisted on cuts to focus on the horror. The final result doesn't really work as horror or comedy, but it is an occasionally interesting exercise in ultra low budget filmmaking that doesn't skimp on the gore or T & A, often looking like a period porn film without the hardcore sex.
The Hoffman house has a history of evil. The original residents, experts on telekinesis and the occult, were mysteriously killed and mutilated and their child who witnessed the incident was committed to a mental institution. Over the years the house changed hands several times, before coming into the possession of Jim Royce (director Wintergate). Jim is a student of meta-physics who spends much of his time trying to make objects move with his mind while simultaneously looking like he's trying to pass a kidney stone (see image above). He runs an ad for several roommates (hot babes only please) and the house is soon filled with voluptuous young vixens, most of whom are played by actresses that were never heard from again. Around this same time we see the Hoffman's demented progeny departing the sanitarium and leaving a trail of bodies in his or her wake.
What follows is a lot of hot tubbing, showering and general nudity, accompanied by much death and dismemberment. One girl gets an ice pick through the hand, the shower walls start bleeding, a cat gets its skull crushed, and there's a creepy gardener who should be wearing a t-shirt that reads "obvious red herring." Meanwhile Victoria (Kalassu) takes an interest in Jim's hobby, teaches herself telekinesis, and starts using it to push around the other girls when they get between her and Jim.
Boardinghouse is nothing original, but I don't think it was intended to be. It's exploitation for exploitation's sake, which is fine I suppose, but the rock bottom budget (Victoria has a nightmare sequence in which she is assaulted by props from a haunted house) and the fact that it's neither scary or funny will turn most people off. Personally, I found it marginally interesting as a historical curio (the video was everywhere in the heyday of VHS), but unless you're a hardcore horror completest this probably isn't for you. The disk has an interview with Wintergate and Kalassu and the two also participate in an audio commentary that discusses, among other things, their plans for Boarding House 2.