“This house knows everything about you. Leave while you can!”
I have no recollection of why I wanted to see House. When I was a kid, I was curious about horror films, but I was also absolutely terrified of them; the terror would win out over the curiosity every time. Was it the tag line, “Ding dong, you’re dead?” The affable presence of Cheers’ George Wendt? The awesome video nasty box art? I don’t know – likely a magical combination of all of these things that could only exist in the 80s. Whatever it was, I did rent it, and found it weird as hell. Thirty years hence, it’s still weird as hell, and I still love it.
Is there a more depressing premise for a horror comedy than this: Roger Cobb (William Katt), best selling horror author, moves into his aunt’s house after her suicide. There, he holes up in an attempt to deal with the trauma of his Vietnam tour through the writing of a book about his experiences and recover from the recent disappearance of his son and subsequent collapse of his marriage.
We’re treated to Cobb’s memories of the loss of his son and the horrors of the Vietnam war, the former through a deluge of a possible drowning and a sinister black car squealing away in tire smoke and the horrors of the Vietnam war. Horrifying stuff. And yet, the film is funny. Much of that is Wendt and Katt, who get along quite well together. There’s lots of gags, like the above dismembered hand, and there’s a warmth towards the films characters. As a horror, it’s not particularly scary, but it’s genuinely fascinating, spooky, strange stuff, particularly the cosmic dreamlands that the house seems to crouch upon.
Taking plenty of inspiration from Poltergeist and Evil Dead, House finds its own weird, fantastical path. House is still a refreshingly strange, messy film, and still feels unique, with a typically great Harry Manfredini score. Give the door a knock and see if you feel at home – there’s nothing out there like this.