Surely a prime contender for the lesser known “Why Was This Even Made Award” at the Oscars, you have to wonder what the reasoning was behind the notion to jump start the House franchise – a series that was already as noticably uneven as the work of a particularly slapdash cowboy builder already.
The first movie was a fun haunted house flick stuffed with cool creatures and funky concepts, while the second was a goofy, time traveling fantasy film that had unhealthy disinterest in common sense and the third was a brutal, supernatural slasher film that technically wasn’t even a House movie at all, so it’s not like you can argue their merits as a cohesive and much loved brand.
Still, undeterred by what must have been a wall of indifference, series producer Sean S. Cunningham forged ahead presumably because he had a bet with someone that he could bodily drag the series toward making a quartet and thus House IV was spawned into a world that mostly still isn’t aware it actually exists… nice subtitle though.
Kelly Cobb is trying to move on from the fiery car crash that put her daughter, Laurel, in a wheelchair and that turned her husband, Roger, into an overcooked steak whose life support she just ordered switched off. In an effort to get back on her feet (oh, uh… no offence Laurel), Kelly moves into the large, dusty house that he husband was trying to keep out of the sweaty hands of his shifty step brother Burke. However, not long after moving in, Kelky starts experiencing weird, haunting phenomena such that old classic, the bleeding shower, as well as some noticably less formulaic encounters such as getting attacked by a murderous pizza (yup, you heard me). However, a more earthly form of danger exists in the group of mobsters Burke has fallen in with who want the land to dump hazardous waste in who are urging him to change her mind in ever more threatening ways.
While Kelly struggles with low budget ghosts and low rent criminals, she also finds she has to wrestle with the guilt of Roger’s death, but an old native American shaman who was a friend to her husband’s family is on hand to explain the secrets of the house.
Is it the vengeful spirit of her husband punishing her for her questionable driving skills that fateful night, or is it the house resonating off of the fact she holds herself responsible for the whole mess? Whatever it is, if Kelly doesn’t adjust the kink in her think soon she might lose a potential weapon against the men coming to violently take possession of the house.
It’s time for Kelly to get a new lease…
House IV seems to be an ernest attempt to recapture the spirit (no pun intended) of the original which saw someone inheriting a house after experiencing a massive personal loss and then having to fend off numerous encounters from either vengeful spirits or annoying comedy neighbours. As if to desperately drive this point home even further, the film has even enabled the unfeasibly curly locks of William Katt to return as original lead, Roger Cobb – although he seems to be Roger Cobb in name only as absolutely no mention is made of the first movie at all. If this causes you to crinkle your brow and wonder why the hell did anyone think to bother in the first place, then you’ve hit upon House IV’s major problem – well, that and the fact that it’s a conflicting mess of tones and plots that broil and churn within its metaphorical digestive sac like an extreme case of IBS.
On one hand we have the thread of a woman who is literally manifesting her own guilty punishment over the death of her husband and the crippling of her daughter that sounds like the kind of slow-burn, indie horror you’d usually find in the filmography of A24 – on the other, we also have a bunch of villians and spectral encounters that shoots for unbelievably goofy and instead scores a bulleye with stupid. While this does admittedly give us some memorable scenes such as a singing killer pizza played by Jason Vorhees actor Kane Hodder who delivers one of the most excruciatingly irritating jingle you’re ever likely to hear, it also gives us a group of comedy bad guys who look like they regularly commute from Joel Schumacher’s Gotham City. The mafia boss Burke answers to suffers from dwarfism, does business from a neon lit chemical factory and has to have excess fluid pumped from his throat from a machine called a “Phlegmatic” and tonally is about as far divorced from the “A” plot as you can get.
Also not helping is the fact that the whole enterprise feels incredibly cheap and the whole production seems tacked together on a wing and a prayer – and while glitzy production values have never exactly been a necessity when it comes to crafting a horror comedy, House IV rough edges count against it, even when it tries to do things a little out of the ordinary.
However, at the end of the day we have a movie that fails as a horror, a comedy and even as a House sequel that offers virtually no reason for anyone to waste their time with it except to witness an anchovy riddled pie pump your skull full of a truly annoying earworm.
With this motley addition to an already misshapen series, it just showed that it was nigh time for the House franchise to pack up it’s shit and move to new digs.