Candyman, Directed by Bernard Rose, 1992
So you've got Tony Todd as Candyman, a hook-handed evil force who appears when you say his name in front of a mirror and gives out free Surprise Disembowelings. You've got Virginia Madsen as a college professor researching urban legends who learns the hard way that pissing off hook-handed evil forces will negatively affect your life. You've got a story by Clive Barker. You've got Xander Berkeley being Xander Berkeley. What's there not to like?
I'll give Candyman a cautious recommendation if you like hook-handed evil forces, Tony Todd, Virgina Madsen or Surprise Disembowelings, but it's far from a fully successful film. The first act is so slow going and monotonous that the wickedly clever second half doesn't have the punch it deserves. The concept of a villain who can only exist because people fear and believe in him is fascinating, but it's not explored nearly well enough (and even though he's the main villain, Todd still feels criminally underused). I can't believe I'm saying this, but...a smart filmmaker could take this concept and make a killer remake. Please don't hurt me.
The Changeling, Directed by Peter Medak, 1980
No, this isn't the Angelina Jolie Oscar-bait (although that would be a real horror show), but rather the story of a widower played by the great George C. Scott who moves into the wrong house. And by "wrong house," I mean "a house haunted by a terrifying ghost child with potentially violent intentions." This is a real slow burn of a movie, taking its sweet time to move all of its pieces into place, but once things get going...well, let's just say I found myself screaming "Get out of f*cking house, Patton!"
This is a horror movie that asks for patience, but rewards the viewer with a constant sense of dread. There may not be any scenes where a machete meets a face (and there are no Surprise Disembowelings), but the whole thing is unbelievably creepy, the highlight being a seance sequence which would be the greatest seance sequence ever put on film if The Orphanage didn't exist. This is a classy and mature horror story and at the risk of sounding like some old codger, they just don't make 'em like this anymore.
The House Where Evil Dwells, Directed by Kevin Connor, 1982
If The Changeling is the cream of the haunted house crop, than The House Where Evil Dwells is the complete and total opposite. Completely lacking in tension or style or anything remotely resembling substance, the film never has a single frightening moment (although it does have an offscreen Surprise Disembowelment or two). The story is pretty much the same as The Grudge, but it somehow manages to be even stupider. A pretty American family moves to a house in Japan where horrible things occurred. A local holy man warns them of the danger. They don't listen. Ghosts happen. Things fall off the walls. The daughter is attacked by giant crabs that scream with human voices. Faucets turn on by themselves. A ghost poseses a bowl of soup. More things fall off the walls. Two samurai ghosts posses two rival characters and force them to have a karate battle. Somehow, even this manages to be boring. Somehow.
There is enough campy oddness on display to make this a worthwhile watch for the most masochistic of B-movie lovers, but if you like your horror, ahem, good, you need not apply.