Classics

[Movie Review] House (1986) ★★★★☆

Roger attacked by the closet monster in House 1986

House plays haunted house tricks on a whole different creepy level.


House is a supernatural horror comedy with a typical eighties style and likewise humor. It has great practical effects that create creepy bizarre monsters, without becoming too gory and it also has some surreal scenes that take you by surprise. It’s a very lighthearted film though with some very dramatic and traumatic elements that are addressed but only serve as plot devices. Don’t take this film too seriously and enjoy a spooky house with its creepy and weird inhabitants.


Plot

Roger Cobb is a writer of horror books, but with a past. He is divorced from his wife Sandy, an actress, after they recently lost their little son Jimmy at his aunts house and he has a trauma from the Vietnam war. He struggles to write about his traumatic experience of that war for his next book, when his aunt dies. 

He decides to stay at her house to work on his new book in solitude, but his aunt always said that the house was haunted and that it was responsible for Jimmy’s disappearance. Now Roger will find out that his aunt wasn’t crazy and that the house has some sinister tricks up its sleeve, even hides some malicious secrets, but also can be a portal to redemption and salvation.


Why you should watch it

If you like eighties cheesy comedy horror full with bizarre monstrous practical effects, then look no further. House is a cheesy house indeed. The story can feel a bit unbalanced, treating the traumatic events of war and losing a child as a plot device and not as a truly horrifying experience seems a bit odd. When thrown in the flashbacks/passages from his new book he is writing about Vietnam it seems all the more strange and it feels as if it distracts from the real plot. You want to watch House for its practical effects and monsters. 

But it time, it all comes together, still in a way that overrules all the real drama and trauma, and everything is okay again. It’s all a bit too simplistic, but that’s just a background story to give the film more backbone. 

This film is to be enjoyed pure for its entertainment, and some weird creepy monsters, and in which they could go all out to create some excellently made creatures. There are a few of them. Some monstrous, some hellish, some creepy and one really campy fun dressed up monster. They are all a delight to watch. It’s monster time for real and they don’t disappoint. They’re fun, campy and sometimes even a bit creepy, like those who kidnap a young boy, looking like monstrous puppets with big smiley faces, so creepy. It’s the monsters that steal the show and how Roger deals with them. His setup to catch a monster, or to pluck a monsterhand off a boy’s back is such fun and turns the horror into humor. 

Center of it all is Roger himself. He sees the ghost of his aunt, warning him. He gets hints from her surreal creepy paintings, and he is threatened by the most scary monsters that lurk in the house. It’s a fun mesh of comedy and horror and walks a fine line between camp and cheesiness. But that works really well. It’s not about the house itself, why it’s haunted and why in such a weird unconventional way. Is it a gateway and why and why did his aunt keep living there? It’s just a plot device to treat us to some wonderful monsters and to make us laugh and be a bit scared at the same time. 

When they eventually mix in some surreal scenes and Roger gets a chance to overcome his fears, the film handles it with grenades instead of care which results in a blast. Again, don’t take it all too seriously, while the underlying themes aren’t there to be explored but to serve the main plot; a crazy haunted house. 

With some great eighties music, fun gags and well-made practical effects, this film is an eighties horror delight that will give you some campy fun time which you have to eat up with a lot of popcorn. 


My favorite part

When his very attractive neighbor Tanya comes knocking, he thinks there’s finally coming something good out of living in the house. But then she brings him her son Robert whom he has to babysit against his will and with all the monsters roaming around, it takes a campy adventurous turn. Some pretty fun scenes are the result. Extra fun is little Robert himself who is totally himself and enjoys the campy monster-fun a lot. Some very creepy things go bump in the night and the chimney scene is just great.

But other neighbor Harold is a fine figure too. He’s a little thick, helpful and annoying, but he stirs things up a bit. First when Roger wants to open the closet with the monster inside with all the equipment installed to catch it on camera, then he called in a so-called suicide attempt, which was a very fun idea. And when all hell breaks loose, he’s probably still sleeping on the couch and totally forgotten. 


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Fun factor: ★★★★☆

Popcorn factor: ★★★★★

Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆


Cast and crew

House is directed by Steve Miner and written by Fred Dekker and Ethan Wiley. It stars William Katt (Roger), George Wendt (Harold), Richard Moll (Big Ben), Kay Lenz (Sandy), and Mary Stavin (Tanya).

Duration: 93 minutes. Music: Harry Manfredini. Cinematography: Mac Ahlberg. Edited by: Michael N. Knue. Produced by: Sean S. Cunningham. Distributed by: New World Pictures. 


Check the trailer below