From a double dose of comedy, to a double dose of horror, with a dash of comedy. For some reason, I have had today’s movie and it’s sequel on my mind the last couple of months. I honestly don’t know why but I decided to cave in and buy them when I saw there were available in a set. Now today’s movie is one of those movies that I tended to see a lot of during some late night cable watching as a kid. To me, I honestly never felt it was that scary but I always enjoyed watching it when it came on. Let’s see if today’s movie, House (1986), is still as enjoyable today.
The plot: In a quiet neighborhood, a local grocery boy is delivering groceries for an old woman named Elizabeth Hooper. Not getting an answer when he opens the door, the boy goes to set the groceries down and leave when he hears a noise coming from upstairs and discovers Elizabeth had hung herself. A funeral is held with the only attendees being two old friends and her nephew Roger Cobb, a horror novelist. After the funeral, Roger attends a book signing and when his fans ask him about his next book, he tells them that it is about his personal experiences during the Vietnam War, which brings a luke-warm reaction from the fans. After the session, Roger’s publisher tells him that he needs to have a new book on his desk by the end of the month, adding that his marriage is already down the drain and if he isn’t careful, his career will be too. When Roger returns home, he sits down at his computer to start typing but then grabs the phone and calls the PI investigating his son’s disappearance to see if there is anything new about the case. Later, actress Sandy Sinclair, his soon to be ex-wife, calls and he pretends to have a poker game going on to mask his loneliness. The two talk briefly, each not really saying what they want to say to each other, before Sandy is pulled away by her date to the awards show for some pictures. That night, Roger has a dream about his son playing in his aunt’s backyard and when he wakes up, he decides to pack a suitcase and head to his aunt’s house. When he gets there the next day, he meets the realtor, who discusses the upcoming auction for the items in the house, and as they look around the house and come to the pool in the backyard, Roger flashes back to when his son Jimmy disappeared. After finishing looking around the house, Roger tells the realtor that he doesn’t plan on selling the house and intends to stay in it while he works on his book. That night Roger hears a noise coming from upstairs and as he looks around, he sees his aunt in her bedroom, who tells him that the house tricked her and it will trick him too. She warns him to get out then proceeds to hang her self but as Roger tries to stop her, she disappears. The next morning, Roger chases off a dog that had knocked over his garbage cans and as he goes to put them up, sees an attractive neighbor jogging by. His next door neighbor, Harold Gorton, introduces himself and when he realizes who Roger is, asks for his autograph and invites him over for dinner. Roger begins working on his book, writing about his friend Big Ben and how their unit was attacked by the Viet Cong. Taking a break from writing, he notices the TV on and turns it off and suddenly sees an image of a kid looking at him through the window and he uses the remote on the kid and he disappears, causing Roger to think his eyes are playing tricks on him. Going to bed, he checks the closet in his aunt’s room but sees nothing there but when he checks again after midnight, a horrific creature attacks him but he manages to shut the door on the creature. The next day, Roger orders a bunch of camera and video equipment and sets it up in his aunt’s bedroom, hoping to get proof of the creature on film, but when he uses a rope to open the door, there is nothing there. Roger can’t understand what is wrong and goes downstairs but when the clock chimes, he realizes what the problem is and races back upstairs but before he can open the door, Harold appears with some food for Roger. Roger takes him down to the dining room and as they eat, he explains why he came back to the house. When Harold asks about the video cameras, Roger says that Elizabeth thought the house was haunted and Roger is starting to think the house is haunted as well. Harold leaves, but steals Roger’s phone book and calls Sandy to explain what is going on and asks that she come check on Roger but she can’t as she has to be on the set and says she will call Roger but asks Harold to keep an eye on him, giving him her daytime number so he can reach her. That night, Roger continues writing about Vietnam, this time telling the story of a night time march and how he and Big Ben were on point. Getting tired, Roger starts to leave the office and notices one of Jimmy’s toys on the floor. When he picks it up, he notices the mounted swordfish moving on the wall. Roger tries beating it with a trophy but when it keeps moving, he heads down to the work shed to get a gun, only to be attacked by some gardening equipment. Heading back to the house, Roger shoots the swordfish then heads to the bathroom to try and clear his head, only to be attacked by the yard equipment again. Managing to escape the tools and heading downstairs, he is surprised to see Sandy standing there. When Sandy asks about the gun, Roger sets it down but a shell that he was about to load rolls off the table. Sandy goes to retrieve it but when she stands back up, she has transformed into a monster and tries to attack Roger. Roger shoots the monster but when he checks the body, it has transformed back into Sandy. Harold is woken up by the shots and calls the police and as the sirens get closer, Roger hides the body and sits outside to wait for the police. When they get there, Roger says that the gun went off by accident as he was cleaning it and the cops and Harold eventually leave. When Roger goes to check on the body, he finds it missing and goes looking for it but as he checks Elizabeth’s room, the monster attacks him and taunts him about Jimmy being dead. Roger refuses to believe it and manages to get away and opens the bathroom door then ducks out of the way as the lawn tools kill the monster. Roger goes to bury the body in the back yard and is surprised to find Tanya, the woman he saw jogging the day before, swimming in the pool. Tanya introduces herself and flirts with Roger but he tries his best to get rid of her to keep her from seeing the body parts moving in the bags. That night, Roger searches the house for some clues but as he looks in the back yard, he sees Harold’s dog has dug up one of the monster’s hands and runs off with it. Roger heads back inside to get some stuff so he can go after the dog but he is surprised to find Tanya there with her son Robert. As they come inside, Roger sees the hand on Robert’s back as he runs off and Roger chases after him and eventually gets him in the bathroom, where he gets the hand off Robert and flushes it down the toilet. Roger takes Robert back to Tanya, who tricks Roger into babysitting Robert for her and quickly leaves. Roger watches Robert then lays him down on the couch to go to sleep as he continues working but when he goes to check on him after a couple of minutes, he finds Robert has disappeared. When Roger goes looking for him, he sees a couple of gremlins trying to drag Robert up the chimney but Roger saves Robert and gets him cleaned up in time for Tanya to pick him up. Some time later, Roger has Harold come over, pretending that it is to watch a game but Roger takes him up to Elizabeth’s room. Roger tells Harold that the creature he saw was actually a large raccoon and he has it trapped in the closet and asks Harold to shoot it with the spear gun when he opens the door. Harold agrees and gets ready and Roger opens the door but when the creature starts attacking him, Harold freezes up at first but eventually shoots it. The creature escapes and Roger tries to stop it but his foot gets tangled in the line and he is dragged off by the creature. When Roger finally manages to free himself, he finds himself back in the Vietnam jungle and at the point in time where Big Ben had been seriously wounded. Roger approaches Ben, who asks Roger to finish him off but Roger can’t bring himself to do it. Hearing the Viet Cong approaching, Roger runs for it and hears Ben screaming out after him as the Viet Cong drag him away. Attempting to escape the Viet Cong, Roger sees a light and heads towards it, where he ends up falling out of the closet next to a sleeping Harold. Roger takes Harold back to his house, then heads to the work shop to take another look at Elizabeth’s painting and when he moves a towel covering part of it, he sees that she painted Jimmy in the mirror of the medicine cabinet. Roger heads back inside and after opening and losing the cabinet, throws a step stool at it, causing it to break and reveals an entry to another world. Some monstrous arms attempt to pull Roger through the portal and he is able to fend them off with a straight razor but when he hears Jimmy screaming from the darkness, he gets some rope and climbs down into the portal. After being attacked by a skeletal bird creature as he rappels down, Roger finds himself in Vietnam and sees Jimmy being held in a bamboo prison. Jimmy warns his dad that the bad man will be back and gunfire erupts around him but Roger manages to free Jimmy and they dive into the river and surface back in the pool. As they go to leave the house, they are surprised the zombie of Big Ben, who is the one that captured Jimmy. Ben explains that he was tortured for weeks before he died because Roger didn’t kill him and Roger tells Jimmy to run while he keeps Ben Occupied. Doing his best to stay away at first, Roger is forced to fight with Ben eventually but when he is no match for him, he attempts to run and find that the kitchen door leads to a cliff, which he almost falls over the edge. As Roger hangs on, Ben steps on his hands to try and knock him off the cliff but Roger uses his belt to snare Ben’s arm and drags him over the edge instead, then climbs back inside the house. Hearing Jimmy yell for him, Roger heads upstairs and sees Ben holding Jimmy and threatening to kill him unless Roger kills himself. When Ben slashes at Roger, Roger notices that he is unharmed and tells Ben he has no power over him now, then grabs Jimmy and takes one of the grenades from Ben’s belt, pulls the pin, and shoves it into Ben’s body and he explodes, setting the upper rooms of the house on fire. Sandy arrives at the house and sees the fire, as does Harold, but just as they start to think the worst has happened, they are shocked to see Roger leaving the house carrying Jimmy, who quickly runs over to embrace his mom.
House (1986) met with mixed results from the critics, holding a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics that favored the movie liked it’s imagination and the effective use of themes from other sources. For the horror fans, the movie has several off camera links to the Friday the 13th franchise, as Kane Hodder, the stunt coordinator, is best known for playing Jason Voorhees in four of the movies (7-10) while director Steve Miner directed the first sequel, where the adult Jason is first seen, and the 3rd movie, where he gets the iconic hockey mask. The movie earned $22.1 million at the box office and was nominated for several awards, with Steve Miner winning a critic’s award for the movie.
Man, sometimes I just can’t stop writing about a movie. Usually that means I really enjoy it and today’s movie is no exception. This is such a fun movie to watch. The acting was pretty good, with William Katt (Roger) and George Wendt (Harold) doing good jobs in there roles and I really liked Richard Moll (Big Ben), though it was weird seeing him as the bad guy back then since I was used to him being Bull Shannon. The story was good, but a little confusing at times, especially the flashbacks to Vietnam. The writing was pretty good as to the mixing of horror and comedy, especially the times when you know something scary is going to happen and they use some humor in setting it up so you are laughing at what is happening, only for the scare to jump in your face. The special effects were decent, but looked a little cheap at times. The closet monster (yep, I can’t believe I said it myself) looked really good, as did the zombie Ben but in comparison, the monster Sandy looked terrible. Still, this is a fun bit of light-hearted 80’s horror that is worth giving a chance.
Rating: 3 out of 5