House

An American Ghost Story, Sinister, The Shining — there are a spate of movies about writers seeking solitude in a house, only to find the exact opposite. House is different it in that it throws in a dash of vetsploitation flavor, while employing practical monsters rather than the usual phantasmagoria as the personal demons.

House’s protagonist Roger Cobb should’ve heeded this advice: Don’t go in the house (also the title of a fab pyro-horror).

Where “horror has a new home,” House features that 80s genre staple: the cheesy prologue. Young Rog walks into a bedroom to find his aunt has hanged herself (it’s actually quite an affecting scene, as the old lady is creakily swinging to and fro).

Undeterred, Rog grows up to occupy the house as an adult — a successful trash novelist looking to get serious with a memoirs detailing his experiences in ‘Nam.

These horror people. When will they ever learn? Never rent bad Mojo domiciles, even if they seem like a steal, even in a tight rental / buyers’ market. Nothing good will ever come of it — unless you flip it real quick before you’re sucked into the Nether World.

So, what distinguishes this house, from any other on the market? There’s its foundation, built on a top-notch cast that includes William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, and Kay Lenz. Wendt (Norm from Cheers) is the jovial neighbor who happens by to ask if everything’s alright at the Cobb house (Rog has been dressing in army fatigues and has set up camera equipment to capture a monster lurking in the closet). Moll, the towering bailiff from TV’s Night Court, plays Rog’s Vietnam war buddy who appears in flashback (At 6’8, there’s one infantryman who’d be quite the sitting duck for the Viet Cong).

Ultimately, House is a middling fun, tongue-in-cheek haunted house creature feature. Similar in sensibility to Video Dead, it’s solid if unspectacular sick day viewing.

**3/4 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of House on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

A fun directional pivot for the series, and the first appearance of Kane Hodder as the man behind the mask, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, is truth in title and a fun double entendre. New (or fresh) blood: new members admitted to a group, typically as an invigorating force.

There aren’t many ways to go with a stalk-and-slash premise that boils down to “masked guy going on a rampage in the woods.” But here, director John Carl Buechler adds some supernatural / telekinesis elements that bring a fun, Cronenberg-lite touch to the Camp Crystal Lake series in the form of researcher, Dr. Crews.

Jason is rotting on the bed of a lagoon, and this Crystal Lake looks more like a Louisiana bog. Crews is studying young Tina Shepard, a girl with the power to move things with her mind, who’s inadvertently caused the death of her father, as well as reanimated Mr. Voorhees from the lake bottom. He’s an institute-appointment psychiatrist who’s more interested in self-aggrandizement than helping poor Tina assuage her feelings of guilt. And she’s a bit like Charlene in Stephen King’s Firestarter (or Carrie, to acknowledge an oft-cited debt).

The rest of Friday is, of course, Jason getting down to the business of killing once he is broken free from his chains and emerges from his sub-aqueous ecosystem.

Dr. Crews is weed-wacked, and Kane Hodder is a kind of Lucio Fulzi Zombie of a Jason, complete with rotting maggot/worm visage and a hulking physicality.

The second unit director and Buechler shot test footage of the allegedly “too small” Hodder (we should all be that small at 6’2″)  in a mock-up mask and suit and sent it to Paramount. And the rest…is history, at least as far as Hodder in the lead role is concerned (Hodder would go on to play Jason five times).

How does this fare in terms of fitting into the Friday canon?

It’s not the best, but The New Blood is far from the worst: that (arguably) came a year later in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.

*** (out of 5)