Remember What Mother Told You: Keep Away From House

At the Movies


Directed by Steve Miner

At the USA Beacon Hill

IT'S BEEN A long day and you're ready to go to sleep. You hear a rattling noise upstairs. You figure its an open window. Better close it before going to bed. But you look everywhere and all the windows are closed. What could it be? On the spur of the moment, you open a rarely used-closet in an otherwise empty room. A huge black and green slimy monster grabs you and carries you away to Vietnam.

You thought House was too ridiculous to come true when you saw it, didn't you? Too bad.

The house in House is a mid-sized gothic mansion filled with antique knick-knacks. That's where our hero, a best-selling novelist and sensitive Vietnam War veteran Roger Cobb (William Katt) goes to write his war memoirs.

This is no ordinary spirit-stricken shack, if only because of its impressive track record. Before the movie begins, it has already abducted our hero's son, destroyed his marriage, and killed his aunt. Not bad for an inanimate object. Then, before 10 minutes has elapsed, it manages to lure our helpless author back to the spooky edifice in order to finish him off too.

As always, however, seemingly supernatural events have rational explanations. The house is filled with conduits to other worlds. There's the closet, the medicine chest, and the swimming pool, all of which emit slimy ghoulies at the bewitching hour. These ghoulies then attempt to maul, skewer, and ventilate our poor beset upon hero.

The persistent efforts of his domicile to annihilate him are only a few of the many problems plaguing our young hero. His mother died when he was young. He was traumatized by the Vietnam War. His only son mysteriously disappeared while he was clipping the hedges one afternoon. And his wife divorced him. "Life's a bitch, eh?" remarks his neighbor Harold (George Wendt) while nodding his head and stuffing his face with pizza and Schlitz beer.

IT'S BEEN A year since Katt's mega-best-seller took the reading world by storm. Now, he is in the midst of coming to grips with his life, by writing a personal account of the Vietnam War. But his aunt suddenly hangs herself and leaves him the house. Strangely, he cannot bring himself to sell the old thing, and is drawn back into the evil vortex.

Once in the nasty nest, Katt quickly realizes his predicament and enlists the aid of his neighbor, played by the hilariously deadpan Wendt. Armed with a harpoon gun and wearing goggles, Harold and Katt, himself clad in army greens and jump boots, approach the evil closet. However, in the process of hunting monsters, Katt is pulled through the door and carried back to Vietnam where he discovers that a dead soldier buddy of his has been the root of all his residential difficulties. (I swear. This is for real.) All turns out well, amazingly enough, and the flick winds up with a Rebecca-style-house-burning ending.

The one bright star in the whole movie is Wendt who plays the chubby neighbor with beautiful aloof poise. When Katt moves into the house, Wendt greets him by saying the old lady who lived there before was crazy. "The biggest bitch in the sky," Wendt sneers. "She was my aunt," Katt answers. "Heart of gold," Wendt comes back without pausing.

Katt is another matter. Several years ago he brought school-boyish charm to the role of an inept superhero in the short-lived television series The Greatest American Hero. In House, he plays the part of an angst-ridden Vietnam vet with the same schoolboyish charm and humor. Unfortunately, angst and schoolboy don't go well together.

In conclusion, I'm tempted to liken a viewing of House to sampling the gourmet French delicacy Pot au Feu, a tasty melange concocted by throwing every morsel of food in sight into a pot and stirring. House is horror scare 'em concocted by throwing every film cliche in sight into a pot and stirring. Pot au Feu is delicious and cheap by all accounts. House is neither. Save $5 and buy some French stew.