Having never seen the House movies I was extremely excited to find out Arrow Video where releasing the Complete Collection including all four films giving me a chance to finally experience the cult 80’s classic for myself. It turns out the movies are way more mad than I could ever have imagined.
Made in 1985 by director Steve Miner who also made Lake Placid, Halloween H20 and Friday the 13th Part 2 and 3 House opens with spooky shots of the titulature building building suspense and culminating in an innocent delivery boy who enters the abode discovering the old lady owner hanging from the ceiling
The suicidal resident just happened to be the aunt of Roger Cobb (Carrie’s William Katt) an author who has failed to write a word since his son disappeared in the same house he has now inherited. With his fans and publisher bugging him for a new book and no chance of him getting back with his famous TV star ex Cobb is a man on the edge with little in his life.
Determined to break his writers block and get on with his memoires of his time serving in Vietnam, Roger decides to move into the decaying dwelling although his aunt always insisted it was haunted even trying to convince him that the house had taken his boy.
With memories of his painful past both with his family and in the enemy filled war torn jungle flooding back to him Roger is already disturbed however when he starts seeing monsters, living garden tools and gateways to beyond in his new home he can’t tell if he has lost his mind or perhaps his aunt was right.
From The House on the Haunted Hill to Burnt Offerings to Amityville Horror to The Conjuring and beyond the theme of the haunted house has permeated horror cinema for centuries taken from the ghost stories of the past telling tales of sprits still infesting the buildings they once belonged in.
In House it is often mentioned that the premises is possessed with a malevolent energy set on destroying whoever occupies it. Less so than other movies House does not explain what, why or how this has happened deciding to revel instead in the random tortures the home visits on Roger including a whole host of amazingly well made monsters including creepy big headed kids and a bloated version of his glamorous ex-girlfriend.
In the lead it is William Katt’s job to display the effects this horrible haunting has on Roger doing a fine job freaking out himself and his overfriendly neighbor Harrold, played hilariously by George Wendt better known as Norm from Cheers, to the point of no return.
What would have worked best plot wise would have been some implication that perhaps everything was in Roger’s mind offering up a Nam induced PTSD alternative explanation to the crazy chaos all arounds him however Steve Miner and scriptwriter Ethan Wiley seems uninterested in this idea and more concerned with what wacky weird demonic beings they can throw at Roger next.
This lack of a solid story added to the rapid change of tone from horror to comedy throughout sadly produces an uneven movie with the blend never quite working, neither delivering solid scares or riotous laughs. What doesn’t help things are the constant Nam flashbacks which although paying off at the end make House feel like four films in one all competing for the audience’s attention.
Criticisms aside House is entertaining fun with some fine turns, sinister scenes and the effects as mentioned really are excellent. Definitely a cult horror there will be those that want to spend as much time as possible in House and with Arrow’s excellent package including director commentary, a brand new documentary featuring tons of the cast and crew and much more it seems like they will never have to move out.