Think Haunted House films and you invariably think of The Amityville Horror, or maybe even Poltergeist, both of which spawned several inferior sequels during the 80s. However, there was another ‘lesser-known’ Haunted House franchise that ran from 1986 and it was called the House series.
Written by Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) and directed by Steve (Friday the 13th parts 2 & 3) Miner, House is an 80s blend of horror, comedy, Vietnam war and sci-fi, all set inside a haunted mansion that appears to be alive. House 2, the sequel, was released a year later, taking the premise of the first, and upping the bizarre factor by twenty.
So with all tickets now sold out please take your seats. Tonight is a full house.
Plot Roger Cobb, a Vietnam vet turned writer inherits a house. A nasty house. A very very nasty house.
Rawshark It had been a while since I had seen House and only fragments of memories lingered, namely something about a man abseiling down the ‘other side’ of a bathroom medicine cabinet and a monster-skeleton GI called Big Ben. But I did seem to remember it containing enough fun and scary moments to leave a huge impact and, with it spawning at least three sequels in the decade that followed it, surely it had to be at least half good.
In true ‘Haunted House’ style, the film kicks off with a writer called Roger Cobb (why are they so nearly always writers?) who inherits a house from family relation who has committed suicide. Some spooky things happen, something is mentioned about the writer’s lost son and he decides to stay to ‘do some work’. It all seems a little serious in the opening twenty minutes, and also very familiar, with Jim commenting that it all felt a little too much like ‘Polterghouse.’
Thank God then for the appearance of George Wendt as Roger’s next door neighbour Harold who injects the film with some much-needed comedy. As soon as he arrives the film picks up immeasurably and what started out as a bog-standard haunted house flick turns into a merry-go-round of mayhem and comedy that gets increasingly more weird and wonderful as it progresses. Featuring huge mounted fish on walls that come alive (“You can buy them now!” – Zomblee), Evil Dead hag monsters, tentacles and much Vietnam War flashback scenes, the film somehow manages to keep the blend mixed perfectly and contains enough laugh-out-loud moments (the many graves for the hacked up hag-monster is a highlight) to constantly entertain.
It’s not all great - the chase and fight sequence at the end goes on too long and the writer / director obviously took some happy-ending lessons from Mr Family-Man himself Speilberg, but on the whole any film that features flying garden tools, references to Cujo and hand-grenades exploding in rib-cages is fine by me.
“Don’t worry Roger, I’ll hold on if it’s the last thing I…” “Aaargghhhh!”
Jim 'Polterghouse...' Can you see what we've done there? Very clever - 'Cheers' for that.
Yes, House is a tonnes-of-fun haunted horror-comedy that might be a bit too much of a family-friendly studio horror (like Poltergeist) for some tastes, but it's helped along immeasurably by the ace comic relief provided by Roger's neighbour, Norm from Cheers. He has impeccable timing, consistently cropping up with a well timed "Hey Roger, wotcha doing?" at the most inconvenient moments - like when Roger's trying to conceal the dead hag monster's body from the nosy police, or photograph the demon monster that appears in his bedroom closet at midnight, for example. He has the best lines too, - like “No offence Roger but your aunt was looney-tunes.” You gotta love him.
The rest of the film ain't bad either. William Katt (of Carrie and Big Wednesday fame) does a great job as Roger, although he does spend half the movie wearing a hideous 80s V-neck. But is he crazy, or is it the house? (“I love it when you’re not sure whether the main character is crazy or not.” – Rawshark) Or, more importantly, is the house crazy? I mean, how many houses do you know where you have to watch your step otherwise you might accidentally find yourself in your very own impromptu ‘Nam flashback.
Either way, House is great fun, although it does kind of run out of steam at the end, but at least it doesn’t relent in its weirdness. Right near the end, we started arguing as to why Roger didn’t just leave through the front door and run down the street, until he did and ended up dangling from the edge of a cliff (“See what happens when you try to go anywhere?” – Zomblee).
“I can’t hide the fact that I’ve been working as a male prostitute all my life!”
Zomblee Sporting the lowest-cut V-neck jumper any of us have ever seen, Roger Cobb has his hands full. All sorts of shit is going on, most of which Rawshark and Jim have already mentioned. I couldn't help but like his military approach to dealing with the spooks in his house ("Thank God he had all that 'Nam training!" - Jim), and William Katt does turn in a pretty good performance here, even though he has to work extra-hard to keep the film moving with any momentum towards the end. To be honest, I got bored.
House comes off as quite family orientated, as Rawshark pointed out - "Not enough slime". He's right. The F/X team should have been way more liberal with their KY jelly in this movie. Blood-free beheadings and the like populate this good clean fun with bad jumpers, 'Nam flashbacks, Farrah Fawcet look-a-likes and a lot of curly hair in general.
Although he has been mentioned already, George Wendt from Cheers brings something extraordinary to the table here. This 'extraordinary thing' is the fact that my serotonin levels soared whenever he was onscreen, and I immediately became interested again. The comedy value he brings to proceedings may not warrant my recommending this film, but if it were on TV, Wendt would be my only reason for watching it a second time.
Director Steve Miner
Cast William Katt
Runtime 93 mins
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House 2 (1987)
Plot Lots of people and monsters run around looking for an ancient Aztec skull. Inside a house. But not the same house as the house in House.
Zomblee "It’s not even the same house!" shouts Jim as the strangest film we’ve ever seen begins. Yes, there IS a house in it. Will you be annoyed if I keep on talking about houses or do I REALLY have to talk about House 2? Jesus wept. Ok, here goes nothing...
I wasn’t expecting much from this late 1980’s horror-comedy sequel. Sounds bad already doesn’t it. Well, if you’ve seen House 2, you’ll know that whatever we were expecting couldn’t be further from the truth. To put it tamely, House 2 is not only one of the most random fucked-up roller coaster rides ever, but perhaps the LEAST predictable film ever made. The events that unfold here are so random, so arbitrary, that there’s no way on earth you can predict what is going to happen next. After a while you probably won’t care either.
The 'plot' goes something like this: Young Jessie has been left a house in an inheritance. He then discovers that his Great grandpaw is still alive. Kind of. He’s a walking talking mummy of a cowboy with a lovely reddish grey beard, a bit like Roddy McDowell’s in Planet of the Apes. Immediately you know you’re in weird territory, but that’s ok because old Jessie is such a loveable character. Jessie’s secret to eternal life is down to a ‘magic skull’ which looks like a skull stolen from Trash’s motorbike in Bronx Warriors, but even cheaper. And it glows bright green. The pure tackiness of this prop makes proceedings even harder to take seriously - even in a horror-comedy context, if you know what I mean.
This should never have been marketed as a horror film. There are virtually no horror elements here and if you’re looking for frights, look elsewhere. This is more like a weird combination of Big Trouble in Little China and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure... but much worse than either. TNT once aired this mess at 10 am. THAT’S how much of a horror film it is. Yes, it’s a children’s film.
The most intriguing thing about House 2 is that it is, above all else, a complete fucking mess. Because of the seemingly random chain of events one could argue that its haphazard structure is all intentional but I think we were all convinced that these filmmakers were so affected by 1980’s that their brains turned to mush and they forgot how to construct a cohesive story.
"Did you blow his head off? That’s a good boy."
Jim Get this Zombie fans - Zomblee begged me to start this House 2 write-up, in fact he practically grovelled. I don't blame him though - the first 20 mins of bad eightiesness just made us chat about anything but House 2 (err, House mainly) until Jesse (looking like an undead version of the prospector out of Toy Story 2) turns up and makes the film interesting. From there on in, and with umpteen glasses of el vino rouge assisting our performance, it all goes a bit crazy.
"I'm not going to know what to put - you start it..."
"No way man."
"No - I haven't got a clue what's going on either..."
Wait a minute - who's that American wrestler? What's that blue glowing skull all about? ("That skull's got some importance, hasn't it..?" - Rawshark) Where did all the party guests come from? How come that room turned blue? Hang on, it's turned into weird science, hasn't it?
I dunno - clever or shit - I can't decide. All I can say is without the fantastic cameo from Cliff from Cheers as the swashbuckling electrician / adventurer guy, this would have been as barmy as Waxworks II. In fact, it's the only time I can remember when we've had to stop the tape just so we could work out what was going on - it's that bonkers.
Still, it does have some amusing clothes ("Oh my God - he's borrowed one of Tom Atkin's jackets!" - Zomblee) and a dogapilla which Rawshark will tell you all about, but not much stuff about houses... ("Well, it's got a house in it?" - Zomblee) And guys, did they rip the ending out of Evil Dead II? Or was that Back to the Future Part II...
"Hey, don't call me Chunky, okay?"
Rawshark Don't listen to the other two, House 2 is a riot, and like Mad Max 2, Empire Strikes Back and Octopus 2 is one of the few sequels that is actually better than the original.
Perhaps realising that the horror elements of the first film weren't working that well, the makers of House 2 seemingly decided to drop anything too horrific and turn the film into a family-rated fantasy adventure. So instead of coming up with a strong plot and a creepy backstory, we get a 'quest for the glowing skull' and it's ability to give ever-living life as two sides battle each other for possession of the skull (almost like a football game).
Admittedly the film is pretty rubbish until Gramps Jesse turns up about 20 minutes into the runtime, but from there on in the film is a hoot. Gramps is a great character, a self-confessed "170 year-old fart" - but if that's true he's also a fart with a heart, as he ends up looking after two animals in the film - a skull-stealing dodo and a cross dog / caterpillar - the dogapilla (don't ask)!
We also get jungles in the living room, dinosaurs, mad Mexican wrestlers, instant house parties that appear from nowhere, Cliff from Cheers in a film-stealing cameo ("Looks like you got some kind of alternative universe there or something"), a Temple of Doom sacrificial scene, rubbish sword fights, and skeleton horses. C'mon.. House 2, bad 80s rip-off cinema at it's peak - what's not to like?
"He's a mummy, and he's living in the basement.."
Director Ethan Wiley
Cast Arye Gross
Runtime 88 mins
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House - although suffering from slight structural damage, the building is in a relatively solid state, despite it's rather weak foundations. Fans of 80s gothic will enjoy it's lavish decor, and out the back there's a swimming pool (complete with one woman neighbour) convenient for burying zombie body parts. Bear in mind the bathroom cabinet as had an extra extension installed, leading to a alternative universe populated by the undead.
House 2 - Situated ideally near the Wild West, ancient South America and the Jurassic Period, this house is an amusing 80s detached period piece. Some may find it's many holes, ill-thought out layout and random house guests a pain (the house comes complete with the last surviving Dodo and a Doggapilla), but if you're in the market for a cheap 80s trashy property, you could do a lot worse.