A blog exploring the sexy, shocking, surreal, and silly side of horror films.

July 14, 2010

House -- 1986 (REVIEW)

House (1986) 

Director: Steve Miner

House has all the chills and all the laughs of a stale Sunday afternoon made-for-TV movie. Cast primarily with TV actors and directed by Steve Miner, House's potentially interesting story by Fred Dekker is buried under a tone-deaf script and construction that renders both the comedy and horror elements moot.


After being granted super powers by an alien suit and cape, the Greatest American Hero, who once served in Vietnam with Bull the Night Court bailiff, moves into a haunted house next door to Norm, the lovable boozehound. Then.....

No, wait. I’m confusing the actors with their old TV characters again, aren’t I? Damn it. That's a symptom of this medical condition I have. Let me take my pills.

That’s better. Let’s try this again. *ahem*

Horror novelist Roger Cobb (William Katt) is losing a grip on his life and career. Following the mysterious disappearance of his son Jimmy, his wife (Kay Lenz) has left him, and no one is interested in his new book about Vietnam. Sometime later, Roger’s aunt commits suicide in the same house where Jimmy went missing – a house known for weird occurrences – yet Roger nevertheless moves into the house to finish his memoirs about serving in Vietnam alongside a loose canon named Big Ben (Richard Moll). Unfortunately, for Roger and the audience, Roger is soon attacked by a series of painfully cheesy and excessively rubbery special effects. Enlisting the help of his neighbor Harold (George Wendt), Roger goes in search of his son within the paranormal "horrors" of THE HOUSE!

And I soon discover that the first movie I described about The Greatest American Hero palling around with Norm from Cheers is a way better movie than the one I just watched.

Rating: 2 / 5 Norms


When the film begins, it feels like we're going be delivered a passable supernatural horror comedy with a twist of Jacob's Ladder and some yucks ala Evil Dead 2. On the creepy side of things, Roger Cobb has a nightmare about his missing son playing in the yard and being attacked by a dessicated hand that erupts from the earth and grasps at the child. Then we get a bunch of humorous moments, such as Cobb's interaction with his weirdo fans or when Cobb receives a call from his ex-wife and he turns up the music to pretend he's at a party and not home all alone, but nothing is overly funny. From this point on, nothing is overly scary either. Very quickly, shit just gets goofy.

You paid HOW MUCH for that manicure?

It's hard to even classify this movie as a horror film. It has about as many scares as an episode of Power Rangers with equally rubbery monsters. In the house, which we obliquely learn may be a gateway to another dimension, Cobb must face a wall-mounted marlin that starts flapping around, lazily floating garden tools, a vision of his wife that turns into a fat latex ghoul, and paranormal flashbacks to Nam that look like they were filmed in someone's backyard using big plastic fronds. Then there's Big Ben (Richard Moll) who doesn't play his role with anything resembling a straight face even though he's supposed to be the antagonist. Moll's got the voice for it (FUN FACT: Moll was the voice of Harvey Dent / Two Face on Batman: The Animated Series), but he's a lunk in this film. The whole movie is cornball, and as it entered into the half-way point, I lost all investment in the characters and the situation.

I knew the film had lost me when it transitioned clumsily into a painful music montage of Cobb burying the rubber corpse of the wife/demon/thing

Then, immediately after an inane scene with his neighbor, House jumps directly into ANOTHER music montage. Padding much?

Not even the inclusion of George Wendt as Cobb's neighbor brings any real comedy to this film. It feels like a stale sitcom, right down to the final shot of the film with Cobb smiling directly into the camera as the picture freeze-frames.

Director Steve Miner directed two of the Friday the 13th films and a few other horror pictures, but the bulk of his output has been on TV. And if House is any indication, that's probably where he belongs.


To its credit, House does have some surreal and nightmarish images. In a memorable sequence, Cobb gets it in his mind that his son is being held captive in another world, and the only way in is through the bathroom mirror. He smashes the mirror to reveal nothing but a big black void. After some ridiculous monster hands (i.e. rubber Halloween gloves) grab at him from the void, he fashions a rope and climbs down into the misty netherworld. The mirror scene is certainly inventive; too bad the rest of the movie feels like a cheesy haunted house attraction.

MATCH.COM, you've screwed me again!

I thought I would really like House. An fun cast, practical monster effects, and the promise of a horror comedy seemed like a recipe for WIN, yet I found the film very tedious. I never grew up with this film, so I have no nostalgia for it. From where I stand today, the horror was light and the humor never struck the right tone for me. My stay at the House was not unbearable, but I was very happy to leave when it was over.

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