House (1977) October 25th, 2021
Too much of a good thing can completely ruin the fun. Inevitably that’s what happens during October when my overexcited wife obsesses over filling every available hour watching horror movies. In the circumstance I lose the enchanting novelty of experiencing a new movie as the experience degrades into a marathon of obligation. With abstinence off the table I’m left to devise new spoonfuls of sugar to help my sugar go down. One of those devices is the ‘mini’ marathon within the marathon. It can be the choice to watch the 3rd installment in different horror franchises (like we did with A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Friday the 13th Part III ) or watching 3 different Dracula films in 2020 (Blacula, Horror of Dracula, and Dracula 3D). Somehow this overcomplicating soothes and refocuses me. That’s my longwinded way of saying this year we watched 2 different horror films titled House.
1977’s House is a surreal coming of age story focusing on a large group of teenage girls’ visit to a haunted house where most of them come to untimely but creative ends. Lauded for its unconventional directing and visual style House‘s greatest achievement is the performances by the young women who make up the doomed friend group. There’s an uncanny realism to their interactions, a spell cast by their believable friendships that makes me want to believe they’re not paid actors but actually young schoolmates on holiday. Three cheers for the cast of House.
Because so few people watch horror films for the cast camaraderie I’ll just answer the question I’d expect you to ask if you’ve never seen the film. How’s the gore? How’re the kills? Is it scary? House is not particularly gory. Bloody? Famously so, I’m pretty sure a character goes full Rose Dawson on a door floating in a blood-pool by the end… but not gory. The kills often come across unmotivated and random but visually creative and certainly unique with a distinctly fairy tale flare. House is one of those rare horror films that is narratively appropriate for children or preteens but graphic enough to ensure scream-filled nightmares. It’s the anti-goldilocks.
Both Houses share more in common than a name. Neither movie can decide if it’s a horror or a comedy. I’ll address the other House in a later review but this House is constantly bouncing between youthful playfulness and absurdist gags to scenes where a decapitated girl’s head is tossed in a well or a piano monster eats its player’s fingers. An early scene shows the girl’s schoolteacher haphazardly walking down a street engaging in Mr. Bean-esqe slapstick bits which in no way prepares the audience for the films coming violence.
House is an oddity and worthy of a watch, but not a rewatch. The Criterion release is fantastic as per usual, full of the special features and extras we’ve come to expect. I imagine House is the perfect movie for some people but it’s not for me, but seriously give it a watch and decide for yourself.
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