31 May 2012 | ARTaylor
Good Introduction to R Horror Movies
I don't know when I first saw this movie. I know I was young, ten or eleven maybe. I remember being scared, and probably had some trouble turning off the light that night, but it never traumatized me. I've picked it up every so often ever since and always enjoyed it. It was one of the first R rated horror movies I saw, and now I'm hooked on the genre.
This is a great film when introducing children to "harder" horror. For those ready to move on from Scooby-Doo but not ready for Night of the Living Dead or The Exorcist. It's scary and suspenseful but never terrifying. Tension builds and there are plenty of jump scares, but the frights never last for long. Take the closet monster for instance. Tension builds as Roger goes to the door and there's a big scare when it comes out. But afterwards it becomes almost silly. Same with the fish and witch. It's a lot like Evil Dead 2 in that it's never too scary to not be funny and never too funny to not be scary.
There's also a good story to go along with it. It follows Roger Cobb who grew up with his aunt in a haunted house. He went to war and saw horrible things. His son disappeared at the haunted house and he's separated from his wife. Obviously, all this ties together in some way when the aunt dies and he moves back into the house. None of it ever becomes hokey or clichéd. The film allows time to get to know Roger before the haunting begins so we like him and understand his plight. There's also an interesting aspect regarding whether all the hauntings are real or just caused by the stress of his life.
George Wendt from Cheers plays the lovable neighbor that Roger befriends and helps. He isn't that much different than Norm but provides lots of humorous moments. The only thing I wish they did better is to make the supermodel neighbor more interesting. She's fine for some T&A and the house does something with her (which I still can never get whether that was really her or if it was just the witch), but she never really serves the story well. It's little more than a cameo just to have a model in the movie.
Each of the actors do well in their parts. All are great, though Richard Moll hams it up just a little too much in his Vietnam scenes. It features William Katt, who genre fans would know as the prom date from Carrie. This film certainly shows some range for him. The film is made by the crew who did Friday the 13th, Parts 2 and 3 and has the same visual style.
The special effects work very well for the story. The "ghosts" are practical effects using puppets, like Star Wars, which looks a lot better than stop motion. As I said before, they look scary at first but grow silly the more they're seen. The walking hand is equally disturbing and funny.
The movie may not be a classic of the genre, but it's well worth checking out. It's a descent ghost story with plenty of suspense. As I said before, this is a good movie to test children before showing them something like The Shining or Nightmare on Elm Street. Those used to more terrifying horror should know that this isn't the scariest thing on store shelves. It's a good, solid B-movie that won't really disappoint.
Regarding the sequel, I say skip it. As light as this movie is, House II is much lighter and far campier. In fact, it's more like Weekend at Bernie's than Evil Dead. It's more of a fantasy-western than horror and never scary. If you're watching this movie and want more, go with the Bruce Campbell trilogy.