HOUSE WEEK: House (1986)

Steve Miner has so many cinematic sins to deal with — Soul ManMy Father the HeroBig Bully (the next to last live action film Rick Moranis would appear in), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later — that you almost forget that he started his career making the second and third installments of Friday the 13th and today’s movie, House.

Roger Cobb (William Katt, Carrie) has some issues. As a Stephen King-ian popular horror writer, he feels fenced in by the horror genre. He has writer’s block. His wife has left him. His son disappeared and no one can find him. And the aunt that raised him just hung herself in the haunted house where he was raised.

Cobb intends his next book to be about what he went through in Vietnam, so he decides to move into the house. His strongest memories involve Big Ben (Richard Moll, fulfilling the contract that either he or Robert Englund appear in every 80’s horror film), a soldier who bullied him back in ‘Nam who was injured and left behind for the enemy to capture.

Everyone’s a fan of Cobb, from his new neighbor Harold (George Wendt from TV’s Cheers) to his real estate agent and the cops that investigate him. He just wants to write. But with all the monsters in his head — and real monsters in the house — that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.

Things get worse when his wife visits and turns into a monster, only to be killed by a shotgun blast. At this point, the film flirts with making Cobb the real monster, but it’s a narrative shift that is never followed up on. Then, as he buries his wife, his hot neighbor comes on to him. What he thinks will be a night of hot sex turns out to be him watching her young son, but that goes wrong when little monsters try to steal the kid,

Finally, Cobb falls into his medicine cabinet into an alternate dimension that predates the Upside Down of Stranger Things by several decades. He rescues his son, but not before Big Ben attacks him again. Finally, Cobb realizes that all of his fears are inside his head and he destroys the monster with a grenade before leading the house to find his son and wife, who is magically returned to life.

House was produced by Sean S. Cunningham and featured music by Henry Manfredini, who also worked on the Friday the 13th films. Fred Dekker wrote the original script, but most of the humor is credited to Ethan Wiley.

This is a good example of pre-CGI monster moviemaking. Big Ben looks great, a triumph of practical makeup, as do the creatures that populate the film. And it’s interesting that this movie explores PTSD and the dark side of war years before many were ready to face it.

The look of the film reminds me of late-period Fulci minus the gore. I’m referring to the film stock itself, which doesn’t have much richness, looking more like a TV movie than a theatrical film.

House isn’t a movie that demands that you watch it, but if you’re looking for something in the middle of the night, it always provides a fun distraction. You can’t dislike a film that has a large fish on the wall come to life and try to kill someone. You can watch it on Shudder or grab the original movie from Arrow at Diabolik DVD or the box set of this movie and the sequel.

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