There are certain things that only really happen in the movies, and although we’ve been fooled by their regular appearance into thinking they’re just normal, thinking about certain things for more than a few seconds will have you scratching your head. House’s entry into that category is the thing where a guy thinks a woman is talking about going on a date with him, but actually wants him to babysit her kid, and keeps interrupting him when he says “I really don’t want to”; the man being a virtual stranger to the woman is just the icing on the cake.
But that’s a small scene in what is one of the 80s great horror comedies. Fronted by people better known for TV comedy (William Katt from “Greatest American Hero”, and George Wendt from “Cheers”, with a supporting turn by Richard Moll from “Night Court”), this is the story of Roger Cobb (Katt). He’s a Stephen King-like author who moves back into his Aunt’s house after she apparently commits suicide, so he can have some peace and quiet to get his head straight and finish his latest book, a personal memoir about Vietnam. But, he’s plagued by memories of the disappearance of his son, and of the war, plus the house appears to be really haunted.
The film this reminded me of the most was “Evil Dead 2”, which came out the year after this. I’m not saying there’s any borrowing, it’s more a compliment about the quality of “House”. As he appears to slowly lose his mind, Harold (Wendt), his neighbour gets drawn in and it’s the both of them seeing the same things which helps him realise he’s not crazy, and he tries to keep an air of calmness as he’s plagued with visions of his son and the death of his best friend in the jungle (which adds a very strange air to certain sections). Portals to “somewhere” open, and while huge Cthulhu-esque monsters try and force their way through, Roger realises he can go the other way, and a faint childlike scream spurs him on…
The comedy in this film doesn’t really come from the things people say, it’s all from action. Katt is dragged and thrown by all manner of evil entities, and has to cover for what he realises looks a lot like mental illness when the police, his estranged wife and the neighbours come to visit. Like an evil Calvin & Hobbes, we’re never quite sure if what we’re seeing is real or a figment of Roger’s grief, and his reaction to things like a dog digging up a demon’s hand that he buried in his back garden is pretty damn funny. When animated tools pursue him through the house, and respond to him closing a door on them by politely knocking, I was in stitches.
Also worth mentioning (apart from the amazing deep v-neck that Roger sports at the beginning of the film) is the definitive ending. No messing about, no “did the monster survive?”, none of it. Well done, “House”! Also of interest is the way this film series is designed like “Halloween 3” was, to be deliberately unquels, so we’ve got three different stories to come. Well done again, “House”!
Director Steve Miner is already a friend of the ISCFC, directing the best of the Halloween sequels (H20) and we’ll be meeting him again soon when we go through the Friday the 13th movies (he did parts 2 and 3). He did a great job with “House”, filling it with memorable characters, really decent special effects and the sort of horror-comedy that very few people seem to be able to manage.
Rating: thumbs up