House

Not to be confused with the adventures of Hugh Lauries’ massive wanker of a doctor, or the utterly indescribable 1977 Japanese horror fantasy fever dream, House is a 1986 horror/comedy that saw quite a few leading lights of the Friday The 13th franchise band together in order to seemingly prove that they could produce something that didn’t involve diced teens and masked maniacs…
Directed by Steve Miner who helmed Parts 2 and 3 (and who went on to make Halloween H20 and Lake Placid), produced by Sean S. Cunningham, who started the franchise in the first place, and scored by longtime F13 composer Harry Manfredini (along with future Jason actor Kane Hodder on stunts), the film at the time was an energetic romp loaded with weird, rubbery monsters and a tone that was like popcorn cooking in a pan without a lid – ie all over the place – but after all these years is it funny? Is it scary? Was it ever? Wipe your feet, we’re going to re-enter House.

Long suffering horror novelist Roger Cobb has endured a lot of heavy shit in his lifetime. He’s a veteran of the Vietnam war, recently his marriage to his actress wife imploded after the bizarre disappearance of his young son and the aunt who raised him after his parents died has been found after hanging herself in her spacious house. When it rains, it pours apparently, but after the funeral, Roger opts to stay in the house where his aunt killed herself and his son vanished from to write his next book, an autobiographical piece about his war experiences that that he’s finding impossible to crack and that no one seems excited for. Soon he starts experiencing deeply strange occurrences; and I’m not talking about the constant intrusions from his new, nosey neighbour, Harold – while his wartime memories grow more vivid, Roger experiences strange phenomena that all seem to have violent intentions for the beleaguered novelist. For a start there’s the misshapen beast that lunges out of a particular closet when opened at midnight (probably shouldn’t open it, then…), then there’s the stuffed swordfish mounted on the wall that comes to life while thrashing wildly and last but not least there’s a horribly bloated witch creature that takes the form of his estranged wife – oh, and did I mention the floating, malevolent garden tools in the garage?
Pretty soon, after a spot of unplanned babysitting for a neighbour that nearly ends in disaster, Roger starts to believe that the secret to finding his son is located in the abode that’s seemingly dedicated all of it’s energies into trying to kill the shit out of him. But never in his wildest dreams could Roger surmise that everything he’s going through is actually a personal attack and soon it’s instigator will reveal himself to take some long awaited revenge for a past crime…

Earlier in this very review I wondered aloud if House was still funny or scary and to be brutally honest, House was never really that scary in the first place, but then that never seemed the movie’s intention in the first place.
I first watched House back during a youth spent absorbing pulpy crap at a relentless rate and after viewing it in 1989 it stood out as much more of a fairground ride than a chilling example of outright terror that hovered just outside the thills of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist and the cartoon excesses of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Feeling more buttoned down than either of those two spectral titans, House feels more like a down to earth sit-com in it’s execution than a pulse pounding, tilt-a-whirl, slingshot into another dimension and that’s probably most likely because of the budget, but more likely it’s because of the appearance of George Wendt from Cheers (everybody now: “NORM!”). With that being said, House features some pretty out there concepts once you throw open the doors to it’s unassuming facade that are as fun as they are utterly illogical. After all, how many horror comedies have you seen that casually throws in killer shears, a monstrous, shotgun welding harridan and an entrance to another dimension that’s located in Roger’s bathroom cabinet, just behind the alka seltzer?
In the harsh glare of the 2010’s, where audiences as young as 12 have already seen it all, House looks even less like a horror film and more like an out and out family comedy that thinks PTSD from ‘Nam and bodily dismemberment to the strains of Betty Everett’s version of You’re No Good, and yet it only goes to show how how genuinely sweet this completely random film is.
The players get the tone nicely, with Carrie and Big Wednesday’s William Katt doing well as his vanilla hero gets to toy with some subtle slapstick (casually swatting at a wrapped, wriggling body with a spade while maintaining a convo with a clueless neighbour), while ubiquitous low budget heavy Richard Moll plays the flashback dwelling “Big” Ben, Roger’s reckless war buddy and (spoiler warning) eventual author to his pain.
However, if House has a glaring flaw, it’s that most of it’s paranormal encounters doesn’t make a lick of logical sense and things just happen because “it’s a movie”. It’s not something that bothers me in the least but those of you that require their movies to have rhyme or reason may feel a little frustrated. Are creatures Roger battles actual ghosts or just deformed constructs conjured by the house itself and is Ben actually behind all this or is he just an extension of the house too? I’m no paranormal investigator, but I don’t buy for a second that you can vanquish a ghost by ramming a live grenade up into it’s ribcage – but that doesn’t stop it from being fucking satisfying. Actually, in amongst all these scattershot supernatural plot points (or holes, depending on your point of view), by far the most galling is that the neighbour who leaves her infant son with an obviously unstable man to babysit despite only knowing the guy for less than a day. What can I say, 80’s parenting, eh?
Whether you take House’s lack of interest in what makes the rules of it’s own universe tick seriously or not (you really shouldn’t), what you should be interested in is the collection of E.C Comics inspired creatures that may look as lifelike as a rubber chicken being served up in KFC, but are still immensely cool examples of 80’s monster making bad-assery. I’ve already mentioned the blubbery witch with her helium shriek and the closet dwelling “War Beast” who has screaming faces emerging from all over it’s lumpy body, but MVP is of the whole shebang is the green, moldy remains of Cobb’s war buddy, Big Ben. Striding through the climax looking like he’s emerged right out of the pages of an issue of Tales From The Crypt, he’s frankly a delight to behold, even though modern hi-def versions regularly betrays the suit performer’s lips synching to Moll’s gravelly lines inside the mouth of his mask.

Causally forgotten these days despite being crafted by some solid genre talent (apart from all the Friday The 13th alumni, the story was originally cooked up by Night Of The Creep’s Fred Dekker), House is a breezy home for a fun movie featuring some nifty creatures and some deft laughs and while it’s as no more harrowing than an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba!, it’s still a delightful throwback when horror/comedies didn’t have to make sense and one that’s always made me feel at home…
It abodes well…

🌟🌟🌟🌟

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