Are you ready to be further confused by the House and La Casa numbering and naming structure? The Horror Show had been financed through pre-sales of foreign distribution rights using the title House III. By the time filming began, the film was definitely going to be part of the series, then United Artists thought that The Horror Show was a better title for the U.S.
OK. Makes sense so far, right? But when House IV came out in 1992, many of us couldn’t remember there being a House 3. And with the internet in its infancy, not many of us knew that The Horror Show was also La Casa 6 in Italy. Confused yet?
It gets worse. The Horror Show is about a killer named Meat Cleaver Max, played by Brion James, who is sentenced to the electric chair and dies. But wait — he’s made a deal with the devil and comes back to haunt the cop who put him away — as well as that policeman’s family — with supernatural powers.
There are also some character actor appearances — Lewis Arquette (father of the Arquette family of actors) and Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs). But this movie feels the weight of the late 80’s push for movies to be sequelized, in the same way that Shocker felt like it was made to set up a franchise.
But wait — isn’t that the same plot as 1989’s Shocker with Horace Pinker making a deal with the devil to come back and haunt the football player who helped capture him? Yes. You are 100% correct. The same year, The First Power had the same exact storyline, too! You could also point to 1987’s Prison and 1988’s Destroyer as having similar concepts, but The Horror Show/House 3/La Casa 6 and Shocker go beyond that and feel like the same exact movie (except for the pop culture elements that Craven injected into his take as he tried to create a new Freddy).
And again — this has nothing to do with the two House movies that came before, which have nothing to do with each other either, other than the title. Whew!
Let’s just get to the movie, where Meat Cleaver Max escapes and frames Detective Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen, Near Dark) for a new series of crimes and haunts the house where his family lives. Only a parapsychologist can help them now.
Of course , everything ends up happy. Of course, the cat survives. Of course, they get a 5-year supply of chili at the end. What?!? Seriously — I regret the time I spent watching The Horror Show and that doesn’t happen all that often. I’m not the only one embarrassed. Noticeably in the opening credits, Allyn Warner is credited as Alan Smithee. I love that they spelled Allan Smithee — the pseudonym when someone wants their name taken off a movie — incorrectly.
Want to see The Horror Show? Shout! Factory has you covered, as they’ve released the film to blu-ray. Or you can grab the House 3 version that Arrow Video released at Diabolik DVD. It’s also streaming for free with commercials at VUDU.