31 Nights of Horror (#9) | 2017
On this episode of The Nightly Chill:
Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at underappreciated 80s comedy horror flick, House!
NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.
Haunted by the disappearance of his son and his memories of Vietnam, a struggling writer moves into his childhood home following the untimely death of his aunt. But as he attempts to use this as an opportunity to work on his latest novel, this would-be Stephen King will also have to face some very real personal demons in House.
House, from director Steve Miner, is–despite the rather bleak and grim subject matter–actually more comedy than it is horror.
Not too much time ever goes by without some visual gag or joke being thrown at an unsuspecting audience. But, at the same time, not too many minutes pass without some eerie
ghoul looking to give William Katt’s Roger (or the audience) a good scare.
Quite frankly, given the the subject matter on display, it’s likely that House benefits by leaning on comedy more than anything else. If Miner had taken a more straightforward approach to the script, the final result might have been unbearably depressing.
Because despite the movie’s more often than not lighthearted tone, House covers things like suicide, child abduction, divorce, and even war-induced PTSD. It never makes light of any of this, fortunately. Instead, Miner chooses to use both comedy and horror as a way to present
such serious material in a more digestible manner.
Just when it seems the movie is going to get too serious– with Katt’s soldier-turned-horror novelist left to stew in his isolation, depression, and seemingly endless amount of guilt–Miner inserts some much needed levity. Sometimes this comes in the form of TV’s George Wendt popping over for an awkward bit of neighborly snooping. Other times it comes in the form of some incredible monster designs.
SCREAMING OR LAUGHING?
And it’s because the movie is a comedy that the monsters and other bits of horror manage to work so well. In a more straight-faced horror movie, the special effects in House–as well done as they might be–might not have worked. Their use is minimal. And the budget was clearly tight.
But, most of all, it would have been lost on an audience watching a Vietnam vet slowly fall apart as everything good in his life is taken away from him. The very real, grounded horror story playing out on screen would have totally overshadowed what amounts to some creepy looking foam rubber.
Overall, Miner manages a beautiful balancing act. The comedy makes the very real horror digestible and allows the fictional stuff flourish. The real horror adds some much needed gravitas to a genre that is often far allowed to be shallow. And the fun horror stuff helps visualize the internal struggle going on in our lead character.
Half the time you’ll likely be laughing. The rest of the time you’ll be fidgeting uncomfortably in your seat. But the entire time you’ll be cheering on our beaten-but-not-broken hero.
And, in the end, you’ll be glad you chose to CHILL with House.