If you didn’t have the DVD of this, you’d be forgiven for not realising it was part of the “House” franchise, as it’s just called “The Horror Show” on screen. Plus, it’s got an Alan Smithee writing credit – that being the name used by writers and directors who want their name taken off a film, for whatever reason. “Fun” fact- this is indeed entirely unrelated to the first two films and was only renamed “House 3” for distribution outside the USA. This should be a stinker, right?
Luckily, those same credits give us reason to hope. It stars Lance Henriksen, and reminds us of an era when an odd-looking sorta small guy like him could headline a major studio horror movie, and Deedee Pfeiffer right at the beginning of her career. Chief baddie (because he’s only ever going to be one) is Brion James, one of the all-time great villlains, previously covered by us in “Steel Frontier” . So let’s go!
There are two main things to notice about this film, right from the off. One is, it’s a heck of a lot gorier and less funny than the previous instalments – right at the beginning, Detective Lucas McCarthy (Henriksen) is tracking down serial killer Meat Cleaver Max (James) through a building, and there’s bits of other cops strewn everywhere, with lashings of blood. Two, it’s incredibly similar to “Shocker”, released later the same year. Max is captured, sentenced to death, gets the electric chair , “dies” and then decides to take his revenge. It seems weird, but in a bit of research no-one appears to be blaming anyone for ripping the other off, so perhaps it’s just a bit of electric-powered-murder synchronicity.
Okay, it’s definitely the least of the House films. It’s basically a traditional slasher movie, with jump scares, long periods where not a lot happens, a main character who’s losing his mind, and has no-one believe him about the bad guy. So far, so ordinary. Also, the body horror special effects look absolutely awful in HD, yet another reason why all 80s horror movies should only be available in VHS-quality.
Brion James is the saviour of this film. He’s an amazing character, and his initial “death” scene is a genuinely over the top, gruesome and frightening moment. As he gets deeper into McCarthy’s mind, we’re treated to one scene where he takes over the TV standup comedy show they’re watching and does a lot of “take my wife, please” style jokes, where the punchline is always murder. Standup’s loss is…nah, he’s awful at it, but the scene is great. He’s another first-ballot ISCFC Hall Of Famer, and according to an interview this was his favourite ever role.
I appreciate “House” was always intended to be an anthology film series, but to have part 3 so different in tone and execution from parts 1 and 2 is still a little odd. Part 2 was pretty much completely a comedy, with comedy leading men in it, but part 3 is a slasher movie with no jokes, apart from ones the characters see on TV. Still, Henriksen plays the harried everyman pretty well, and were it not for the glacial pace of the central section, it would be a decent addition to the series.
Before we go, a word about how this film is related to “The Evil Dead”. Italy, for many years, was a copyright-free zone – if you had a bootleg CD in the 90s, chances are that’s where it came from. When the first two Evil Dead films were released there, they were renamed “La Casa” 1 and 2, and some scumbag distributor decided that building on the success and quality of those two was easier than starting from scratch, publicity-wise. The “Casa” horror series just continued with a series of entirely unrelated movies (much like the “Zombi” series took Dawn of the Dead as their starting point). That list:
La Casa = Evil Dead (1981)
La Casa 2 = Evil Dead 2 (1987)
La Casa 3 = Ghosthouse (1988)
La Casa 4 = Witchery (1988)
(featuring a between-TV-shows David Hasselhoff and Linda Blair possessed by a demon)
La Casa 5 = Beyond Darkness (1990)
La Casa 6 = House 2: The Second Story (1987)
La Casa 7 = House 3: The Horror Show (1989)
I love it. I love every stupid audience-cheating bit of it, including not using House 1 as part of the series, and having House 2 and 3 in there, despite them not even being related to each other. I want La Casa 8, you guys!
Anyway, House 3, eh? Anybody want us to cover “Shocker” next?
Rating: thumbs down