Friday, January 7, 2011

Film #50: House (1986)

Money pit houses are the worst! First the roof springs a leak. Next, the basement floods.
And before you’ve written your first mortgage payment, a skull-faced demon from the 9th level of hell perv-touches and kidnaps your 10-year-old son!
Yep, hell pit houses sure are the worst.
Just ask Roger Cobb, a horror novelist whose marriage and life takes a clockwise turn down the toilet bowl after his son disappears during a visit to his aunt’s Demon Dwelling.
The old place is more haunted than a Tijuana stripper, with beasties of all dimensions flying out of the walls. When Auntie is tricked by the spirits into giving herself a Texas necktie, Cobb inherits the house and decides to track down his son once and for all – in between writing his Great American Novel about the horrors of Vietnam service. Oh yeah, he has scary issues.

Next door to the Hell House lives Harold Gorton, played hysterically dead-panned by Norm himself, George Wendt.
A Roger Cobb-novel superfan, Harold instantly befriends Roger and eventually aids his buddy in keeping the house ghosts at bay. But at first he just thinks Roger is crazy, what with his tales of man-scratching skeletons and visions of his old-as-fecal-matter hanged Aunt.

That old Roger, he has a hell of time finishing off that war novel, seeing as he’s continually interrupted by inanimate objects trying to de-gut him and mounted fish trying to head upstream.
Things get even worse when Cobb’s model/actress ex-wife “shows up” to harass him, only to turn into a bloated, bitchy, bile, burping baboon (isn’t it always great when you see an ex, and they look worse than you remember them!?)
Novel aside, Roger finally gets to business of tracking down his son in the warped walls of the old homicidal homestead. But not if the evil spirits have anything to do with it. That 10-year-old boy meat is sooooooooooooooo tender and vivid!

Can Roger find his winy brat? Will his ex-wife literally take his ass in the divorce? Can George Wendt polish off an entire bottle of Jack Daniels? Find out in the 1986 80s-licious funfest, “House.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 3.8
Chris Dimick war-cries:
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, the 80s. The best decade for the horror film. That’s right, of ANY decade. Don’t start with your Expressionism this and Universal Monsters that. The 1980s knew how to deliver an entertaining horror picture. Why? They kept it light and simple.

House, like many of its 80s brothers, knew how to balance humor, horror, silly and seriousness. Some scenes, like when George Wendt eats a midnight dinner with a deranged Roger, are downright witty and laugh out loud funny.
The horror was campy by modern standards, but lightly sickening for a mid 80s flick and realistic (in parts) to boot. When that monster jumps out of the closet that first time, don’t deny you weren’t surprised or even jumped… just a little.

The silly came with child monsters and a disembodied hand that wouldn’t quit. Nick and I both hoped the hand would choke out a mulleted child it stalked at one point… for the child’s sake (Child mullets are a capital offense).
The seriousness came through Cobb’s struggles with his Vietnam War crazies. Every good 80s horror movie has to have a crazy ‘Nam vet to do something wacky or flip out for the camera. House actually dug into this stereotype, not deep, but to just about the eye water table. It took war trauma somewhat seriously, or at least incorporated the premise into its plot.

Best of all, 1980s movies, like House, know their sense of time and place – and embrace it harder than leg warmers on a two buck Betty.
The 80sness of this flick literally poured into my eye sockets and flat-sat on my fun zone. The non-gay man wearing a low V-neck sweater! The garbage can size personal home computer! The tiny, rock hard Banquet microwave dinners symbolizing the characters loneliness! The feathered, feathered, light as a feather hair!
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, it makes me want to put Billie Jean on my Ghettoblaster and Flashdance till I puke Rubik Cubes!

Those damn horror films nowadays can just be too heavy handed in their delivery of the medium. It is all dark corners, jump scares, over processed gore, and flimsy character development in place of fast cut edits. The 80s horror movies told a story… sometimes an innocent and neutered story, but a story nonetheless that you could remember five minutes after throwing your popcorn garbage on the theater floor.

Each time I watch a classic 80s flick, I feel special for having the experience, and deeply saddened that I am one step closer to having watched them all.

House, I give you a vigorous theater clap. But 1980s horror movies, I give a standing ovation.”

N-Rating: 4.0
Nick Rich war-cries:
“For this week's film I would like to employ some audio/visual aid so you might better understand how I felt about watching House (see below).

YES! Feeling chipper and dandy now aren't you? (Even though you're not sure you should because that definitely wasn't the greatest song you've ever heard.) Throw in that warm feeling you get when childhood memories and nostalgia wash over you (you know, like blood slowly soaking into your shirt after you've been shot in the kidney region), well, that's how I feel about the 1986 haunt-a-thon House.

Much like the music video Our House you just watched (the song is still running through your head isn't it?), House is happy, fun and infectious. Of its own merit House is not great mind you and admittedly wouldn't hold up against some of the greatest horror movies of all time (much like Our House wouldn't hold up against Mozart's Requiem), but there's just something about it that makes you well, happy.

You may be confused at this point.
"Nick, isn't this a blog about horror movies? Why do I care about a horror movie making me happy - aren't I supposed to be scared by them?!?"

Well gentle reader if this is how you feel, I'm afraid you couldn't be more wrong. When it comes to a horror film, like most things in life, there is more than meets the eye. There are a multitude of things to consider:
Yes, you may have noticed that last one there: did it make me happy. I don't think most people associate horror movies with being happy, most of the time I would guess people assume they exist to scare. I'll never knock a good scare (that is one of the aspects I love about horror films), but if we were to get to the root of the issue I think it's about happiness. Webster's Dictionary defines happiness as "enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment". When it comes right down to it, you're not going to intentionally watch a film that doesn't make you happy. Now the thing that may make you happy might be having the living daylights scared out of you... or it may be watching a fun filled romp with Vietnam vets sprinkled in (a common situation to be sure). Any way you slice it, as a viewer you are experiencing enjoyment; thus happiness.

Personally, I enjoyed this film on multiple levels. You see, I had seen House as a wee lad (presumably on HBO) while residing in my super-awesome childhood home. The room which housed our 20 inch color TV in a 30 inch frame was warm (as it had an old-school, freestanding wood furnace), inviting (thanks to the modular sofa that swallowed half of the room in a sea of configurable comfort) and the most memorable room in the entire house. It was in this room, probably eating one of the ever-present freshly baked chocolate chip cookies that accompanied occupancy (or so my memory tells me), where I first saw House... And watching it once again instantly transported me back to my haven of 80's childhood refuge; and that makes me happy.

I dare you to try watching House and fully submitting to its pure 80s goodness then tell me it didn't make you happy! (This would be especially difficult for a child of the 80s.) Obviously, you won't have the same happiness baggage going into a viewing of House as I did (and if you did, that'd be a bit eerie), but maybe, just maybe House will help you discover that cozy room hidden deep within the reaches of your own memory. I guess the old adage is true: be it ever so humble, there's no place like House.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you've ever wanted a realistic portrayal of what life is like as a novelist, or if you miss (and romanticize) the 80s as much as we do."

Things We Learned From House:
-Dali is "sick" to teens.
-Punk rockers look like women... all of them.
-Banquet dinners and dog food looked similar in 1986.
-Never play cars on a grave.
-Nick sleeps with his shirt off. Chris hates sleeping naked.
-Beautiful women can get a man to do anything, even babysit.
-Aging actresses can get real ugly.
-George Wendt still had it in 1986.
-When coming back from the grave for revenge, don't forget extra rounds.
-Some remotes turn off bad memories.
-Baby mullets are child-abuse:

Quote of the Viewing:
[Roger Cobb enters the frame wearing a V-neck sweater, and nothing underneath. Chris and Nick snicker]
Nick: "I'm waiting for him to took at the camera and say 'Um, my eyes are up here, guys!'"

Things the RDHP Love About the 80s

Nick and Chris love to relive their childhoods and gush about 1980s horror movies. But what are some other things that make our slap-bracelets curly-cue? Below is a tribute to the 1980s fit to replay on VH1 23 hours a day (the other hour is STD-stank dating shows).
Hey remember in the 1980s when we had…

Chris liked him because he ate his mortal enemy…cats. Nick liked him because he had awesome hair and an even awesomer computer game!

Ronald Reagan
He was a cowboy. He was all American. And he was senile as all hell. How did we avoid WWIII again?

Saturday Morning Cartoons
As a child, Chris would actually grab the printed faux TV Guide provided by the newspaper (called the TV Book, big city boy that Nick was he used the actual TV Guide) on Friday night and plan out which cartoons he would watch that next morning. Yep, once OCD, always OCD. But hey, there were a lot to choose from! Nowadays it is all Zack and Cody this and That’s So Raven that. Where are the Smurfs? The Rainbow Brite? The GI Joe!?

Though had been around long before 1980s, this seemed to be the drug of the decade. Yeah, it destroys lives and families, but at least it was a better than the 2000s favorite of crystal meth cooked up by inbred trailer hicks. Cocaine at least had some class, people! Go snort some!

Home Box Office
With the wonder of cable (and its mind-blowing 30-some channels) still fresh on our eyes, something called the Home Box Office made us feel like the future was NOW! I mean, movies in your house - no tapes, no commercials!?!
(Nick still gets goosebumps watching this intro)

David Letterman was Funny
Ah the days of Larry Bud Melman and unpredictable guests. When Letterman was at his prime in the 1980s, it was can’t miss it TV. Now he is just a balding, dirty old man who laughs too much at his unfunny jokes. Turn off David, and spend your nights with a warm cup of Coco!

Corded Phones
Oh how you could wrap and wrap and wrap yourself in these cords. And when you got sick of talking to your Aunt about her fungal problems, you could hang yourself with it too!

Free Broadcast TV
What’s that, you can still get free TV over the air? Sure you can… but do you really want to lazy-ass?

No Internet
Well, at least most of us didn't have it. Sure the military was playing War Games, but everyone else had to live with heading to the library for information, or - GASP - people. As great as instantaneous answers are, we kind of miss the comfort we used to have in not knowing things.

RDHP Salute:
Men in V-Neck Sweaters!
Now this is a fashion statement men have to bring back. Oh wait, they did… for hipsters and gay gentlemen. Thanks a lot American Apparel! As an acknowledgment of the raw sexiness and bravado Roger Cobb holds as he struts through most of House in his bare-chested V-neck, we present other starry-eyed wears of the man V!

Ode to January
By Chris Dimick
(I’d like to give a special tribute to the worst month of the year. Yep, all the presents you didn’t like are in the dumpster, the next work holiday is months down the calendar, and you have a bowl full of candy canes you don’t want to throw away, but won’t ever eat. I heart January.)

It’s the most horrible time of the year!
Present debt does come calling
Seasonal depression brings balling
And frostbite does sear!
It’s the ass-assiest time of the year!

January is a December hangover.
Puking out the “joy” burns the throat.
What is there to look forward to in January?
Other than triple digit gas bills,
And six figure Visa statements.

Don’t expect to see the sun for awhile.
At least someone’s on vacation.
So much for “peace on earth” I guess,
Common curtsey is so last year.

It’s the most horrible time of the year!
Flu bugs begin crawling
Frozen engines start stalling
Depression breeds fear!

It’s the shit-shitest time…
It’s the hope-hopeless-ist time...
It’s the most horrible time of the yearrrrrr!

(P.S. Happy Birthday Nick)

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