House was a much watched movie in my house back when it came out on VHS in the eighties. Its horror but not gory, its got monsters and child snatching but a fairly light tone. Basically its horror fun for all the family! What I didn’t realise at the time was a) it was the Friday the 13th team’s attempt to do for Evil Dead what they did for Halloween (ie rip it off but with less energy/talent and make it more mainstream) and b) that it was shit.
William Katt moves into his Aunt’s house after she hangs herself in her bedroom. He has problems of his own as his soap opera-acting wife has left him after their son dissappeared from the grounds of this very house a while before hand. Katt is also a horror writer who’s trying to complete a book about his horrific Viatnam war experiences and this is not going well. Soon the house is sending weird visions and visitations to him and, as the ghost of his Aunt points out, it beat her and now it wants to beat him too. Worse than that, Katt spends a large chunk of the movie wearing a low-cut v-neck beige baggy jumper. Its not a pretty sight:
The various monstersnand spirits that show up are of that 80s-over-the-top creature effects variety but in dresses or kids clothes and with high pitched giggling voices. This worked in the Evil Dead films because they were so off kilter and twisted they were rather disturbing. This, on the other hand is disturbing in a different way:
She, for it is a she, is more like a beer goggle girl you’d meet down Croydon High Street on a saturday night. I mean, that’s pretty scary, but not in the way the film makers intended. Anyway, she is soon dispatched and decapitated but there is much hilarity as her servered hand tries to fondle a woman’s ankle and attaches itself to a child (a child with the kind of mullet that should be considered some form of abuse). All the while William Katt is trying to hide this monster from the neighbours and police. Watching this section of the film, it dawned on me, in a slow realising terror, that Katt was pulling bug eyed faces and pratt-falling in a desperate attempt to be funny. I mean, I like Katt in Carrie, he’s a goofy charmer, but what he’s not is Bruce Campbell. But then no body is Bruce Campbell except Bruce Campbell. Even in the recent Evil Dead remake they realsied that there was no way they could replace Campbell’s Ash so didn’t even try. Here, poor Katt desperately tries to add some laughs to proceedings but it ain’t happening. Its painful to watch, or at least it would be if the film wasn’t so flatly shot. Here we are in spectacular house, with weird angular stairs and creepy windows everywhere you look, and the film is shot like one of the soaps Katt’s ex wife stars in. He’s seen watching one of them while he’s writing his book (how is that going to inspire him?) and they are obviously taking the mickey out of soap operas, but the film is no better than them. The music is also really melodramatic and undermines the horror, drama and comedy at every turn.
Things do take a turn for the darker during the war flash backs, but not by much. They must be some of the most poorly realised recreations of the Vietnam war ever commited to film. It mostly looks like a bad studio set and the soldiers are wearing such a mish mash of uniforms that they completely undermine what little drama there is. These segments do bare some relation to the main story, as one of the characters during these scenes returns for the climax. But as was the way in the 1980s Freddy Kruger hey days, he mostly spouts awful one liners and weak puns before blowing up.
Maybe I’m asking too much for my light hearted horror comedies. Its incredibly undemanding stuff: the film floats over you like a bored moth: a bit ugly here and there, kind of stupid but completely harmless. On VHS in 1986 my younger brain vaguely enjoyed it, enough to watch it a few times, and watch its two (or three depending where you are) sequels. Now I’m happy to live without House, although living in a house would be nice, but that’s another non-horror blog story…