Yesterday, I didn’t get to watch or review any horror films because the air conditioner at the house stopped working. While I know that a lot of people up north think that AC is a luxury that’s going to destroy the world, I live in Texas and an air conditioner is a necessity down here. So, if that leads to glaciers melting and me getting a lecture from some obnoxious little brat …. well, fine.
Anyway, we were able to get the air conditioner fixed. It took a while but it’s now working again. Once the AC was again blowing cool air into the house, I started to think about how it could be worse. I mean, the house could be haunted. We always tend to assume that ghosts are going to be nice but really, there are some nasty ghosts out there.
Take the 1986 film, House, for instance. House stars William Katt as Roger Cobb, a horror author who needs a best seller. Cobb is dealing with a lot. He’s wife (Kay Lenz) has left him. His son has vanished. His aunt has recently committed suicide, leaving behind her house. On top of all that, Cobb is still haunted by his experiences during the Vietnam War, when he was forced to leave behind a gravely wounded soldier named Big Ben (Richard Moll). Cobb wants to write about his Vietnam experiences but his agent is aghast. No one wants to talk about the war!
So, Roger moves into his aunt’s old house. He was originally planning on selling it but, for whatever reason, he thinks living in an abandoned house that drove its last owner to suicide will be a good idea. Roger thinks that living in the house will help him finish his book. The House has different ideas.
Soon, Roger finds himself dealing with a series of incidents that feel as if they were lifted from other, more cohesive horror movies. In a scene that feels like it was inspired by the Evil Dead, his wife turns into an otherworldly creature and tries to attack him. Weird gremlin creatures, which could have come from Troll or Ghoulies, keep showing up and trying to kidnap an obnoxious neighbor child. Roger’s neighbor (George Wendt) thinks that it’s possible that Roger is a murderer and that he’s buying his victims out in the backyard. Even worse, a decaying and pissed off Big Ben starts to show up.
House is an occasionally likable attempt to mix horror and comedy. Most of the comedy comes from Roger’s attempts to keep anyone else from noticing just how crazy things have gotten in the house. (Disposing of a demon’s body turns out to be not as easy as one might imagine.) William Katt does a good job with selling the comedy, though he never quite convinces you that he’s a best-selling horror author. That said, the horror aspect is far more interesting, if just as a metaphor for Roger’s PTSD. At its best, the film suggests that the house is feeding off of the lingering trauma of Roger’s war experiences. It’s an interesting idea but not one that’s really explored as much as you might like. Unfortunately, the film struggles to balance the horror and the comedy. Just when it really starts to scare you, it remembers that it’s supposed to be a comedy. Sam Raimi would have been the ideal director for House.
That said, House is entertaining, if a little bland. If nothing else, watching it made me feel better about my own house. My air conditioner may have gone down for a few hours yesterday but at least it didn’t open a portal to Hell.