Friday, September 19, 2014

House (1986)

So. I could swear that at least one person recommended House to me as “really really scary.” It had also been languishing in my Netflix streaming queue for quite some time so I figured I’d give it a shot. About halfway through the movie, I started to feel like maybe I had missed something. I paused it and did a quick IMDB search, turning up a 1977 Japanese film by the same name which I think was probably the actual recommendation I received. Guys, when you recommend me something, please make sure I write it down. I’m the worst.

 Actually, I really don’t care that this was likely the wrong movie because I LOVED IT. First, let me tell you this: I feel that it would be a lie by omission if I did not tell you that I watched this movie while under the influence of barbiturates. It sounds like a fun recreational thing—or does it? I’m unsure—but it’s really just a migraine med that also has caffeine in it, presumably to counteract the barbiturate effect. Like all good Italian babies, I used to be given coffee in a sippy cup (it’s seriously stunning that I am a solid 5’8”) so I am pretty immune to caffeine at this point in my life and so this particular med still slightly messes me up in an “I’ve never seen ‘em fing” kind of way.

Oh wait, there they go.

So this may have possibly influenced my enjoyment of the film, just a little bit. As an added result, my initial notes about the movie are just bizarre scattered observations. Among them:

- This grocery delivery boy has a big butt and I’m pretty into it (I WROTE THAT ON A PIECE OF PAPER)
- Did Roger really just put something into the microwave for 30 minutes? Is he trying to grow a giant tumor?
- Roger is sort of studly even though he wears an excessively low V-neck sweater that is tucked into slacks to hang out and take out the garbage. I know it’s 1986 but c’mon.

Do you like how I always use the same clouds to indicate that someone is outside? I’m such a great artist, I really am.

There are also a few references to my excitement that both Norm from 'Cheers' and Bull from 'Night Court' feature prominently in this film. This is my real life in 2014. On barbiturates.

Roger, our protagonist, is a horror writer for whom things are going terribly wrong. His son mysteriously disappeared, his marriage fell apart and the aunt who raised him has recently committed suicide by hanging. Roger inherits her giant old house (where he grew up, and where his son went missing) and moves back in to work on his next book, which is a memoir of his experiences in Vietnam (which no one seems to want to read). Weird stuff starts happening, there is a giant monster thing in the bedroom closet and Norm lives next door and just wants to hang out and drink High Life.

I had gone into this with the expectation that it would be “really really scary” so I was surprised to find that this was, in fact, a horror comedy. I did not realize it was such until the scene in which Roger’s ex-wife Sandy turns up at his front door and then shapeshifts into a rubbery, jowly, grotesque yet feminine monster and it’s goddamn hilarious.

To defeat this monster, Roger cuts her into pieces and buries her all over the backyard only to have her hand dug up by Norm’s golden retriever. The hand sticks around until Roger flushes it down the toilet which, as the owner of a very old house, made me extremely nervous about the plumbing but made for an excellent visual.

Ultimately Roger realizes that the house has taken his son—a fact that his aunt told him at the time of the disappearance but everyone wrote off as being crazy—and is able to find him by smashing the bathroom mirror and crawling into this insane pit in the house. Here he realizes that his son was kidnapped by the undead entity of his old army buddy from Vietnam (Bull!) who begrudges Roger for not being able to mercy-kill him when he was wounded in action and instead allowing him to be captured and tortured by enemy forces. He appears as a crazy undead skeleton soldier D&D looking thing and I absolutely love him.

Good news though, Roger is able to defeat him and the house by no longer being afraid, a theme that has JUST NOW arisen in the 88th minute of the film, and his son is rescued from the clutches of undead army Bull. This house is clean.

You’d think this would pretty much wrap up the movie but I have several unanswered questions. 1) Why was the aunt being haunted into killing herself? She didn’t leave Bull out to die. 2) Who were the other monsters in the house? There was the Sandy monster and the closet monster that I referenced earlier, and also a couple smaller monsters that tried to kidnap a neighbor’s young child that Roger is weirdly babysitting and BATHING, which is so upsetting that I won’t even get into it. 3) Why is being unafraid all it takes to defeat these monsters? That seems like a cop out.

Regardless of the loose ends and fairly chintzy special effects, and the fact that I was expecting a different movie entirely, House was super fun. I really loved this and would definitely watch it again.


  1. OMG you have to watch the real House too (the Japanese movie). It is SO INSANE, and I love it so much. I saw it in the theater a few years ago. (I will totally watch with you.)

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