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  • Writer's pictureMartyn Wakefield


Dir. Steve Miner, Ethan Wiley, James Isaac and Lewis Abernathy

Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield

Everything was acceptable in the 80’s and no film franchise demonstrates this more than the HOUSE series. Produced by FRIDAY THE 13TH alum Sean S. Cunningham, the franchise is an anthology series that shares as few links to each other as it does to horror in general.

HOUSE sees a troubled writer move into a haunted house inherited by his aunt. When Roger (William Katt) discovers the nature of the haunting is rooted in his own guilt ridden past, he battles his demons and the house in grissly fashion. The first entry, is certainly the best and balances humour and horror that only the 80's could do.

HOUSE II takes the haunted house principle but moves to a different home and a different family. This time taking a family friendly approach this entry is more THE NEVERENDING STORY than THE NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET but it has its charms and is a perfect entry for the little ones into the realm of horror.

THE HORROR SHOW, dropped the HOUSE moniker in the US but due to distribution in the UK and Australia remains as an official entry to the series but isn’t even set in a house although refreshingly is by a long shot, the goriest and horror centric movie. Starring Lance Henriksen, HOUSE III sees a detective haunted by a sadistic serial killer. Full of blood and guts, this is the highlight of the collection but that doesn’t put it as one of the most memorable films of the era, thanks mostly to a dire script only saved by a strong central performance and some so-bad-they’re-good moments from everyone else. And we won’t talk of the soundtrack.

Surprisingly, it’s taken this long for a follow on from the events of HOUSE and William Katt returns as Roger for a brief cameo to introduce a new house, and a new haunting, only this time things are flipped around. After mysterious events surround the new inhabitants, a criminal toxic waste dumper plans to oust them unsuccessfully. No, this plot wasn’t ripped from the POWER RANGERS but does share as much in the sense of fun. While the HOUSE films before it have mixed humour with horror and even adventure, HOUSE IV is more comedic and memorable for all of the wrong reasons but is still a better fourth entry than THE OMEN IV. If you liked CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST, you may enjoy this, and please google "HOUSE IV PIZZA MAN" if it's the last thing you do. In fact do it now...

If you’ve seen any of these before, you know what to expect, if you haven’t then expect Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon effects and humour and while there’s certainly horror in 1 and 3, 2 and 4 still have a family charm that will make it impossible not to share with a younger audience who have yet to stomach the sight of a woman in a meat grinder or a severed hand in a deep fat fryer.

The HOUSE collection is not an essential purchase but by heck is it good fun. The sheer diversity makes it a box set to keep you interested. Unfortunately it doesn’t live up to the standards of the recent HELLRAISER release nor does it have the cult status of some of Arrow’s essentials from the same era but what it lacks in pulling power will be a must have for fans of any of the entries.

One thing is guaranteed, and that’s that you will fall in love with the Caterpuppy, anything else is open but the HOUSE series packs imagination, laughs (some right, some for the wrong reasons) and thankfully even the cast and crew all have fond memories of working on these films. I’ll be honest, I’ve never sat and watched a film with the special features back to back but Arrow (and Scream Factory for HOUSE III) have made essential viewing of the features with the majority of crew who worked in front and behind the screens.

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