House (1986)
By: Michelle R. on June 27, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Force Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 88 minutes
The Movie
Director: Steve Miner
Starring: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz, Mary Stavin
Screenplay: Fred Dekker, Ethan Wiley
Music: Harry Manfredini, Buddy Feyne
Tagline: Ding Dong, You're Dead
Country: USA
Bestselling horror author Roger Cobb (William Katt) is suffering a severe case of writer's block due to a series of troubling events in his life – his young son Jimmy has mysteriously disappeared, his wife Sandy (Kay Lenz) has divorced him, and most recently, his Aunt Elizabeth has just committed suicide by hanging herself in the house where Roger grew up. Plagued by nightmares and flashbacks of Jimmy, Roger decides to move into his aunt's house – a stately, yet sinister mansion - for a fresh start. Not a wise move as he is hoping for some peace and quiet in order to write his latest novel about his experiences as a Vietnam veteran, and as soon as Roger crosses the threshold havoc reigns. The first distraction is his nosy, obnoxious neighbor Harold (George Wendt), who invites himself over at all hours and hassles Roger Ned Flanders style. The second distraction is much more sinister – Roger sees the ghost of his aunt re-enacting her suicide, accompanied by an ominous warning to "Leave while you can!" Since this is your typical horror plot, does Roger leave? Of course not! Even when the manifestations transform into increasingly more malicious beings (including a hideous, multi-faced tentacled monster which materializes from a bedroom wardrobe at midnight and his visiting ex-wife mutating into a blubbery purple beast), Roger opts to stay on, continue with his novel and wage war against the house's unwelcome 'guests'. Attempting to obtain photographic evidence of the wardrobe demon one night, he is dragged by the monster into a portal which sends him hurtling back in time to the horrors of the Vietnam jungle where he is forced to re-confront a dark secret from his past – Roger's army buddy Ben is wounded, and requests that he kill him, but Roger runs for help instead and Ben is captured, to suffer torture as a POW. On returning back to 'the present', Roger realizes the house is a 'gateway' where in order to find his missing son (who is trapped in the jungle), he must endure a harrowing journey into the past, confront the vengeful, zombified spirit of his betrayed army comrade Ben, and battle the dark forces which have haunted him for a lifetime in order to save himself and Jimmy from certain death...

One of the most profitable movies ever for former distributor New World Pictures ($3 million budget that turned over $19 million in the U.S. alone during its theatrical release), House was former editor Steve Miner's third directional effort – he had previously cut his teeth at the helm of Friday the 13th parts 2 and 3, and has several of his colleagues from that series on board (Sean S. Cunningham, Harry Manfredini and Kane Hodder).

Though not without its faults, House is an enjoyable mix of light horror and comedy that works quite well, and is far superior to much of the 'safe' horror efforts of its era. If you're looking for a really gory, horrifying movie, House isn't it, despite much potential in the storyline for an all-out bloodbath. If, however, you're looking for good old '80s fun, then you've come to the right place. There are some really eerie moments, but the film as a whole maintains a playful atmosphere. This is a movie that depending on your mood will either have you jumping in your seat, laughing your head off, or both. Steve Miner succeeds in creating the creepy atmosphere of an old house and in finding a likable cast as well. William Katt is excellent as Roger Cobb, the horror author/Vietnam vet on a quest for his own personal self-realisation. He ends up in countless life-threatening (not to mention) embarrassing situations as he battle against the evils of the house, and his own personal demons. Much of House's comic relief is provided by Cheers star George Wendt as the neighbor from hell and Roger's "number one fan" Harold Gorton. He has impeccable timing, consistently turning up with a well timed "Hey Roger, wotcha doing?" at the most inconvenient moments - like when Roger's trying to conceal the dead hag beast's body from some inquisitive cops, or photograph the demon monster that appears in his wardrobe at midnight, for example. It features some creative effects, funny moments and is given an original and refreshing treatment, despite a tired premise. However, House is guilty of several flaws which detract from the film's potential status as a genre classic. It does run out of steam during the last leg and feels somewhat underdeveloped in its characterizations and execution - some plot threads are simply abandoned. Some of the humour also falls flat and the monsters are rather cheap and rubbery-looking, though this could have either been deliberate on the part of the filmmakers to add to its 'jokey' tone or simply due to budget constraints.
No real complaints here – the anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer looks bright and sharp, with only a few minor bits of grain.
No discernable problems either with the 5.1 track - no distortion is present, and all effects, music and dialogue are mixed well.
Extra Features
Typical of Force Entertainment's output, their release of House is a fairly bare-bones offering, with just a scene selection menu and trailers for House 2 and 4 as included 'extras'.
The Verdict
House is a fun popcorn flick that might be a bit too much of a family-friendly studio horror for some tastes, but catch it in the right mood and enjoy the merry-go-round of mayhem and comedy. Though certainly not one of the finest horror films ever made, it has more than its fair share of moments - huge mounted fish on walls that come to life, Evil Dead-like hag monsters, murderous flying garden tools, not to mention the pissed-off severed hand of Cobb's ex-wife (!) to constantly entertain.
Movie Score
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