Tuesday, 23 August 2011

House IV (1992, Lewis Abernathy)



In the course of revisiting House II the other week, I was a bit mean to House IV. In fact, I described it as "an attempt to recapture the vibe of the first which ends up crashing and burning fairly horribly".

Now, at the time I felt a bit bad about that, mainly because I hadn't actually checked out House IV in a looong time. My memories hadn't been favourable, but it seemed a bit harsh to dismiss the flick on the basis of a half-remembered opinion from two decades back. Thus, I decided that the movie needed to hit the player again, just to make sure that I hadn't unfairly slighted a forgotten classic.

Guess what? I hadn't unfairly slighted a lost classic. I'd called it pretty much on the money, actually.

We are reintroduced to Roger Cobb, still played by William Katt but otherwise a very different dude. He's got a daughter rather than a son, a wife we've never met before and a deep attachment to a different creepy-assed house to the one in the first movie. Those of us who actually remember the first movie (either by having a functioning long-term memory, or possibly by having seen it a mere 4 hours earlier as part of a manic all-night House marathon, accompanied by beer, caffeine and a growing sense that life might not be all we hoped it would be and we might never achieve even the drastically scaled-down 2011 version of our dreams) are left confused. Personally, I entered a kind of dream state for at least twenty minutes, during which time I pondered whether this was an alternate reality Roger, whether this Roger shared memories and experiences with his same-name sibling from a better movie or whether the two were entirely autonomous, kept apart by the gossamer-thin fabric of...

Oh, they've killed him.

Yes, after sitting on the touchline for House II and House III, Roger returns triumphantly to the franchise only to get unceremoniously bumped off in the opening act. Our hero has been reduced to a plot device. How the semi-mighty fall. The plot (such as it is) shifts to Roger's new-wife and new-daughter as they adjust to life in the big family house without him, only to be plagued by mysterious and usually fairly badly executed creepy things. Blood out of the taps, all that sort of stuff - which is a bit bizarre given that the house *also* seems to be protecting them from some gangsters. Yes, this is a movie that can even bugger up the motivation and character arc of a building, so you've got to feel a bit sorry for all the human characters wandering around because they really don't stand a fucking chance.

Whereas the tonal shifts of the original House were smooth and rather nicely executed, here the gears crunch horrifically whenever the movie changes the mood. Silly comedy sequences bounce against badly-executed po-faced and cliched horror bits of business (Blood coming out of the shower! Scary warnings!) without ever finding a mood that works. I'll refrain from blowing the plot resolution, but it makes precious little sense given what comes before.

I'm not sure if the flick was the subject of reshoots, but the disjointed feel certainly gives that impression: even the swearing comes in odd little clusters in specific scenes, as if the rest of the movie had been shot for PG-13 and then six months later extra stuff was filmed after the plan for the low rating had been abandoned. Unlike House II, there's no commentary track to shed light on this kind of stuff.

Yeah, the flick doesn't work. Crashes and burns, etc, etc.

At least I've set my mind at rest that I didn't mislead you guys in the House II review.

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