I realize now you had to be there and about 15 years old to appreciate 1985’s House. I was, and I did, but things change.
Steve Miner (Friday the 13th 2&3, Lake Placid, Halloween H2O, Day of the Dead remake) directs what I used to think was a kick ass movie. It always hurts to revisit an 80s classic only to find that all it has going for it is nostalgia.
It’s astounding to me that House is barely funny—in my head it was horror comedy gold—and that the plot is a ridiculous mess. Only the various ghouls save this one.
Tommy Ross/The Greatest American Hero William Katt plays a former military man who is now an author struggling with the loss of his son. And by that I mean the kid just went missing. The flashback seriously makes it look like a car drove off with him.
Now Katt is estranged from his wife, played by Kay Lenz (Stripped to Kill, The Initiation of Sarah), so he decides to move into the home of his aunt, who recently committed suicide there. But auntie ghost isn’t the problem. There’s a Lovecraftian creature in a closet, little creatures in the fireplace, a deformed monster version of his still living wife, and an old military buddy turned zombie, played by Richard “Bull” Moll. Oh, and his son is trapped in the house in another dimension that is set during the Vietnam war. None of it makes any sense at all.
Meanwhile, Norm of Cheers plays his neighbor, and even he isn’t as funny as I remember him being.
HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY (1987)
Lar Park-Lincoln of Friday the 13th Part 7 has a surprisingly minor role as the wife of the main man, played by Arye Gross of the Ellen sitcom, before it was called Ellen. When they move into a new house, his buddy comes to visit and they go dig up his grandfather’s grave to rescue a supposed magic skull crystal from it.
With the skull they also unearth corpse gramps, who comes to live in the house with them and even blends in at their Halloween party. Then some old muscle barbarian crashes the party and gets the skull. The guys have to follow him to prehistoric times to reclaim it. They bring back an ancient princess, a baby pterodactyl puppet, and a caterpillar/dog mashup puppet. It’s like watching fricking Fraggle Rock.
Bill Maher makes a brief appearance, and Cliff from Cheers comes around as an electrician, and he’s funnier than Norm was in the first film.
Eventually the main guy has to fight a zombie cowboy, which gave me really bad Bubba Ho-Tep flashbacks. Yet this piece of crap is better than that film.
HOUSE IV (1992)
Years ago when I worked at the video store, I drove my boss crazy trying to get him to find “House 3” after we got House IV into the store. It wasn’t until the Internet changed the world that I learned the truth about The Horror Show being slapped with that title in some markets. It’s also slapped with that title on my Blu-ray, so I’m forced to shelve it with my other House films.
House IV fails miserably at trying to bring the series back full circle to the first film with the return of William Katt. Unfortunately, he now has a wife who isn’t Kay Lenz (even though they reconciled at the end of the first film), and he has a daughter instead of a son, and she’s in a wheelchair. Plus, their house is now an inheritance from his dad, not his aunt. It’s like Katt’s character went into witness protection and started a new life.
But the focus isn’t on Katt, because, you know, he was just overwhelmed with other acting jobs by 1992…
The focus is on his wife, who moves into the house with just her daughter…and is harassed by Katt’s brother, who wants the house. Terri Treas of the Alien Nation series, who plays the wife, is awesome in the film and the best lead character of the series. She’s funny and dives head first into the horror craziness. I just wish there was more horror than she deals with.
Weirdness slowly creeps into her world—pizza with a face, a blood shower, a fight with her daughter’s bed, a nightmare of her brother-in-law in nurse drag—but then the film veers into an absurd, Full Moon Films style organized crime plot involving her brother-in-law and very little in the way of ghosts or monsters.
Leave it to the 90s to make an already weak franchise from the 80s even worse. On the bright side, Katt returns to save his family, but it’s hokey as hell.