Thursday, May 3, 2012


House is one of those ‘80s VHS staples that nobody actually seems to remember. While few could forget those luscious mulleted curls exploding out of William Katt’s head, the movie itself always felt more relevant as a perennial fixture (along with its three sequels) on video store shelves. We all THOUGHT we saw it at one point in time, but did we care?
Quick Plot: William Golden God Katt plays Roger Corbett, a successful horror novelist stuck with writer’s block as he struggles to pen his memoirs of his dark secrets in Vietnam. Following the earlier death of his son and subsequent divorce from his primetime soap star wife, Roger moves into the mysterious (and titular) house of his aunt, a batty artist who hanged herself in the film’s prologue.

It doesn’t take long for gooey monsters to pop out of closets and mounted trophy swordfish to flop about-

-yes, just like Billy Bass
It's tough being a writer, as Roger now has to balance ghost hunting/tolerating with remembering his days of combat beside good old genre stalwart Richard Moll. Despite the amusing/annoying aide of nosy neighbor George Wendt, the misdirected flirtations of a sexy foreign neighbor, and the sympathy of his ex-wife, Roger can’t seem to catch a break.

House is a most definite horror comedy, a subgenre that can degrade faster than almost any other with the passage of time. Any comeror or horromedy (yeah, I’ll stop doing that) generally relies on the gameness of its cast and willingness of its audience to let loose and laugh at what, with the removal of a few musical cues or altered facial expressions, is expected to incite fear in another title. 

Does House work? Yes and no. Released in an age rife with haunted homes on camera (the Amityville series and Poltergeist were already sequels in), House has plenty of fun poking around at the squishy goblins and floating tools so identified with ‘80s suburban horror. The monster designs aren’t aiming for a Thing-like iconography, but there’s a great sense of personality about their look that finds a nice balance between the scary and silly. William Katt is one of those innately likable actors with a natural charisma that makes him easy to watch, an important factor since he’s in every scene of the film.

So what doesn’t work? Well, it’s not so much about what fails as much as it is what doesn’t go far enough. House is a tame film, one working hard for chuckles rather than laughs. Directed by Friday the 13th Parts 2 & 3 and Halloween: H20’s Steve Miner, it plays in the shallow end of the gorgeously kept inground pool without daring to cross the deeper territory of Evil Dead 2 or Dead Alive. That’s fine, as an attempt for all-out goofiness that fails can be painful for all involved. But ultimately, it makes House--which went on to slowly reap three sequel(ishe)s--fairly forgettable entertainment.
High Points
Even though he doesn’t get to have quite as much fun as I’d like to see, it’s always pleasant to see Richard Moll working in a film not tarnished by grain on a Mill Creek transfer

There’s a wonderful passing moment where Roger sits down to watch his wife’s Dynasty-like soap, a fine reminder of how great those storylines could be. Sample line of dialogue: “I can’t hide the fact that I’ve been a male prostitute for most of my life.” Can I watch THAT movie please?
Low Points
The tone is more than a bit confusing, especially when we consider the fact that there’s suicide, Vietnam trauma, and a dead child lurking around the peripheral of House’s main plotline

Lessons Learned
The best way to get over an ex you still harbor feelings for? Shoot a monster wearing its clothing

Solitude is always better with someone
When the sexy blond neighbor asks you if you like to play, she might indeed be referring to Chutes & Ladders or Hide ‘n Seek

Fashion Alert
Hey able-bodied men: whenever you’re ready, the world is welcoming of the sexy deep V-neck sweater to make its triumphant return
House is currently streaming on Netflix Instant, which makes it fine for a fluffy afternoon with the kids (minus the suicide and PTSD). It’s light, goofy, but not over the top comedy with the look of a horror film. Nostalgic ‘80s fans will certainly appreciate some of its references, while younger audiences may just find it on their level. Don’t ring the bell expecting to be scared, but do take comfort in knowing you’ll be staring at William Katt’s baby blue eyes for 90 minutes. 

To each her own.


  1. I think Mary Stavin is in this, playing the slutty foreign neighbour. She was in a few Bruno Mattei actionsploitations, namely Strike Commando 2, where she was scarier than House for sure! haha!

    And by the way, from reading your Mahakaal review, I guess you saw it with subtitles (Unlike me). Do you have any idea what th weird superhero scene about halfway into the film was? (assuming you remember)

  2. Re-watched House on Instant Watch some time back, turns out almost all the memories I had of it were actually from House II. Didn't quite hold up as well as I had hoped, except of course for the corpse burying montage to Linda Rondstat.
    And yes, it's always a great day when we have a Richard Moll sighting.

  3. Hm Chris, it's been ages since I last watched Mahakaal. I think the superheroes were there to ensure the film was over 2.5 hours long.

    Tim! The montage was pretty damn groovy. I want to check out House II primarily because I adore its subheading: House II: The SEcond Story. That in itself makes it worth a watch.

  4. Yeah, directors trying to play it safe with the art almost always end up being self-defeating. I'm not a horror person, but I certainly remember parts of "Evil Dead" and the other one when he went back in time. I didn't see the film but, did it, at all, feel like Steve Miner knew what exactly he found funny about the horrors of the story? If he did, I think he would have felt safer taking things as far as they could possibly go.

  5. It's a pretty fun movie, especially if you watch it when you're like 14...

    PS: I got this when I first tried to load your page: Reported Attack Page!

    This web page at has been reported as an attack page and has been blocked based on your security preferences.

    Attack pages try to install programs that steal private information, use your computer to attack others, or damage your system.Some attack pages intentionally distribute harmful software, but many are compromised without the knowledge or permission of their owners.

  6. Good question TCS. There's a lot of dark undertones to the film--the death of a child, failed marriage, Vietnam--but it's all only skimmed. Not really sure what Miner was going for!

    And yup Kangas, I'm working on it. Some stupid malware thingy thing that I don't understand. Trying to purge out whatever isn't needed for now, then rebuild from there once I'm back safely online. May have to take big measures, but I'm crossing my fingers this is solved soon. Thanks!

  7. Cool. It's not reporting anymore, but then again, I told clicked on the This Is Not An Attack Site, so it wouldn't show it to me again anyway...

  8. I *think* it's all clear now. And now I feel somewhat smart for figuring out computer stuff. So that's the silver lining for me! Confidence!

  9. Richard Moll is a treat. I remember being excited to see him in But I'm A Cheerleader. Blasted typecasting! Surely the only reason he's not an A-lister.

    House is exactly what you say: lounging around entertainment.

  10. Yup, lazy Sunday movie to be sure. And if you're a big Moll fan, delve into those Mill Creek packs. Or should I say, MOLL Creek packs?