House – Horror Movie Revisited
“This is dedicated to the one I love!”
The song by The Shirelles was first introduced to me when I watched House for the first time in 1986 – putting me at about five-and-a-half years old being that it was released in February of that year and my birthday wasn’t until August. It was one of many things about this film that always resonated with me and, to this day, every time I hear it I think about this movie. When I saw that House was available on Netflix’s instant streaming I just had to watch it again. For the most part, I am usually disappointed by the amount of cheese presented in old 80’s horror movies as they usually don’t play out quite the way I remember them. However, there are exceptions – House is one of them.
Being five-and-a-half years-old I was not purvey to crucial information that would have made for a better understanding of the horror - comedy genre and so, House, was simply a horror movie to my fragile little mind. Of course, my laughing at certain sequences in the film should have been an indication that there were, indeed, some comedic elements set in place in this horror movie . Still, it was these moments that made me giggle to these jokes that I’m sure I didn’t even “get” that left an imprint of the film in one of the tiny wrinkles of my meager little brain. Of course, aside from the laugh factor, there was also the scare factor that resonated with me – after all, it was a movie about a haunted house.
For those not familiar with this movie, or too young to know about it, the film revolves around Roger Cobb (William Katt) who returns to his childhood home after the death of his “coo-koo” aunt who was regarded as such because of her belief in the paranormal, namely that the house was haunted. Some of you might remember William Katt as none other than The Greatest American Hero, which I was a huge fan of growing up. Of course, Roger’s intentions of being in the house is to use it as a quiet place to finish his book on his experiences in the Vietnam war. Roger is treated to a plethora of distractions that include an unruly mounted Marlin, a “thing” in the closet, ghoulish twins, an evil hog-like creature that takes the form of Roger’s ex-wife and the nosy, “all up in your business” neighbor Harold Gorton played by the seemingly always burly, George Wendt.
To say that this movie is full of jump-scares would be an understatement as most of its scares relied solely on this type of scare tactic. To have such a film today that used these tactics sparingly would be a travesty as those types of scares are what many would consider, “cheap”. Being a 1980’s horror movie, er, horror/comedy, I can forgive the “cheese” factor and because of the times we are treated to a rare overextended opening sequence which featured “eerie” music by Harry Manfedini, who is no stranger to horror, and listed just about everyone who was involved in the making of the film – thankfully, we don’t get much of those lengthy opening credits anymore (unless of course the film’s soundtrack is one to admire – but we’re talking synthesizer music here!).
What’s best, being that it was 1986 – drum rolls, please – no CGI! Everything was practical and prosthetics and by God did it look “good”! Of course you can tell that everything was extremely fake but it was fun!
Good laughs and cheap scares aside, House did have a message that many can relate to. What is that message? Face your demons. Roger was plagued by nightmares of his past, having blamed himself for the death of a war buddy, Big Ben (Richard Moll). On top of that, he was living with the current stresses of his missing son, his marriage was in shambles and, to boot, he was living in a haunted house! It was these obstacles placed in fron of him that made for an entertaining little, low-budget film. House is one of those gems of 80’s horror movies that I can watch over and over again bringing me back to my childhood. Sure, there are a lot of things going on in this movie (obstacles!) that oftentimes have you scratching your head and wondering why he just doesn’t get the hell out of there. But, in the end, it is these moments that make this film so memorable.
One more thing, what 80’s movie would be complete without the classic, clichéd, “cheesy” ending freeze-frame?