house | steve miner | ethan wiley | william katt | kay lenz | george wendt | haunted house | haunted | ghost | ghosts | monster | monsters | creature | creatures | comedy | fantasy | fred dekker | united states | richard moll | mary stavin | michael ensign | steven williams
Director: Steve Miner
Writer: Ethan Wiley
Starring: William Katt, Kay Lenz and George Wendt
This is a movie that I saw after seeing one of the later sequels. For some reason, my father had House IV recorded on a VHS. My sister and I would watch it regularly. I didn’t see this one until some time after when I rented it from the video store. I’m sure I only saw it that one time. There were things that stuck out to me though. I’m now watching this for a second time thanks to the Podcast Under the Stairs’ Movie Club Challenge.
Synopsis: a troubled writer moves into a haunted house after inheriting it from his aunt.
We start this off getting to see the house that everything will take place from different angles. It then goes to a grocery delivery guy, James Calvert. He brings in things for Aunt Elizabeth (Susan French). She doesn’t answer the door and he goes to leave them on a table in the foyer but is drawn upstairs when he hears something. He finds that she hung herself.
The movie then shifts us over to Roger Cobb (William Katt). He’s a famous horror writer. He has a bit of a block and wants to write about his time in Vietnam. His manager isn’t thrilled about this idea. There has been tragedy in this life though ahead of what happened to his aunt. He was married to an actor, Sandy Sinclair (Kay Lenz). While they were staying at Elizabeth’s their son Jimmy (Erik and Mark Silver) went missing. Roger is holding out hope, but there isn’t much of that left. Since that happened, Sandy and Roger have divorced.
Roger decides that he’s going to the house. He meets with the realtor, Chet Parker (Michael Ensign). It is during this that he reveals he’s not selling. Roger is convinced his son is still there. He believes it is haunted like his aunt kept saying. It is then he meets his neighbor, Harold Gorton (George Wendt) as well as another neighbor in Tanya (Mary Stavin). It is also in the house that Roger delves into his time in Vietnam with a fellow soldier nicknamed Big Ben (Richard Moll) who had issues of his own. He also comes face to face with the supernatural.
Coming in with this second watch, I knew that this movie was more of a comedy than horror. One of my buddies, Ken from Sledgehammer Horror, loves this movie. I believe this is his favorite horror movie. I knew that Steve Miner, who directed this, also did Friday the 13th Part 2 and III. This was also his next film. It doesn’t shock me to see that Harry Manfredini did the music here. Since I’ve brought him up, I do enjoy most of the soundtrack. There are hints of Friday the 13th used here which I don’t mind. I do have a negative though, there are times where it doesn’t work for me and throws the tone off. These are the times that it goes more whimsical.
With that out of the way, let me go to the story. I like the idea that this family has lived in this house for a while. Roger’s parents passed away so he raised by his aunt and uncle. He loves the place but knows there is something up with it as well. When his son went missing, he starts to believe his aunt. His wife not so much. I can’t blame her though as it isn’t logical. It is fitting that Roger is a horror writer. He feels like one of us.
The house itself is where I’ll go next. Elizabeth was painter. There is a work that Chet points out that she did that scares him. What I like with this is that it is key to helping Roger figure the place out. This house feels like it might be partially the basis in American Horror Story season one. If you die in the house, you are doomed to haunt it. It pushes people to suicide instead of killing them though. I like that. It will manifest our darkest secrets to push you there. In the case of Roger, he sees monsters in the closet. His wife visits and she becomes a hideous creature. I think there’s an allegory there since they’re divorced. Roger also has the horrors of what happened to him during the war being personified with Big Ben. I like all of this.
What doesn’t work for me though is the tone. There are times that it feels it wants to go horror. I’m there for them. There are other times where it leans more into the comedy. It wants to be more whimsical. That is seen through things on the screen, which I don’t mind. It is when the music also shift that it doesn’t work for me. I think part of my problem is when I saw this movie. If I would have been younger, I think I’d have more nostalgia. I’m not a fan of all horror comedies so that is another part of it as well. I don’t dislike this movie; I do want to state that. It just doesn’t work for me as well.
Where I’ll go then is the acting. I like Katt. He makes a cameo in the fourth movie and I know him from Carrie. I think that he works well in this movie. He adds comedy in some of the things that happens. He plays well off others too. Wendt is fun as the annoying neighbor who butts in when he shouldn’t. I like when he puts his foot in his mouth and tries to backtrack. Moll has a good look for the role he plays. He is quite creepy as well. Lenz and Stavin are both attractive. We also get cameos by Ensign, Steven Williams and Mindy Sterling here as well. The acting I think is fine and works for what the movie needs.
The last things to go into would be with the filmmaking. I think that the cinematography is well done here. Miner does well in showing the house. He also makes it a character of its own which I like for a haunted house movie. I think that the effects are good too. We get mostly practical. That is due to the era as well. I like that the laws of physics don’t apply here. Roger explores that and I’m a fan.
In conclusion, despite me not being the biggest fan of the tone, I still think this is an enjoyable movie. I love the house as a character and the bit of lore that we get introduced to. Some of things they do with that works. When the movie goes horror, I’m for it. When the tone shifts to the more comedic, it doesn’t work as well for me. I do think that the acting is good. The effects are as well. It is also shot well. Despite me having issues with some parts of this, I still find this to be an above average movie. I know some people love this and I get it. It just doesn’t work as well for me.
My Rating: 7 out of 10