Monday, May 9, 2011
Sanity is Just a State of Mind (House, 1986)
When I was in high school, a buddy of mine and I actually watched this movie way too many times. Not only is it really weird, but the film has odd flashbacks that keep popping up throughout and are not fully explained until later on in the movie. All I know is that a Vietnam vet who writes freaky novels decides to move into his aunt's house after she decides to hang herself. How nice of him to take over the place despite the fact that it drove his last remaining relative utterly insane. This is usually how horror movies, especially ones about haunted/possessed houses, often start, so I let that aspect slide.
However, the movie itself doesn't sustain enough tension, and even though there are really creepy moments, they are often negatively impacted by the movie's way too campy/cheesy tone. This hurts the movie, along with the fact that some aspects are obviously borrowed from other movies. Funny enough though when the main character, Roger, is attacked by inanimate objects, that bit reminds me of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, even though that movie came out a year later.
The difference between the two is that Evil Dead II actually succeeds in giving off a creepy/hilarious vibe with such a technique, where as in House its too random and isn't anything other than eye rolling. I guess its all how you film certain material, and if the director is smart enough to properly set up his more outlandish and frightening scenes.
Oh there are some really hilarious moments, such as when Roger kills and cuts up a monster, and then the soundtrack decides to play oldies tracks that only make the scenes more disturbing, which I suppose means that bit works. George Wendt from Cheers at some point helps out Roger by making sure he doesn't go to jail, and only exists for clear comedic relief. So the movie veers from comedy to horror, not smart enough to do either incredibly well, although at times it does succeed at being creepy.
My favorite scene has to be some demonic winged monster grabbing Roger's shotgun, turning it on him, and shooting the rope holding him up, causing him to fall into a pit below. Such a moment is too random to mean anything, but it made me laugh a lot, which perhaps was really its intended goal. Or the director actually thought something like that would scare audiences.
Unlike some of the rather stupid 80s slasher movies, though, this film does have a certain degree of campy charm that stamps its status as a B-movie cult film. What's really disappointing is that the movie should have stuck with Roger just going completely insane. In the hands of a better director, the film would have been something like Legend of Hell House, or The Haunting, far better films that are not only creepy, but are really more effective. Too bad, because I wish I could actively champion this movie as being an gem from my birth year, instead of merely enjoying it for being a limited, weak, but entertaining little movie. 68