Episode XXXV: House (with its writer Ethan Wiley!)

house

Hear House writer Ethan Wiley on the podcast to this episode

By: Bo from Last Blog on the Left

Film: House (1986)
Rated: R
Directed by: Steve Miner
Written by: Fred Dekker and Ethan Wiley
Starring: William Katt as Roger Cobb
                   George Wendt as
                   Richard Moll as Big Ben
                   Kay Lenz as Sandy Sinclair
Tagline: Horror has found a new home.

Pre-Screening Memories: To be fair, I loved the movie House as a kid.  Really loved it.  Despite the R rating it carried, it was a movie that was harmless enough to keep the parents from fretting, and it contained enough gore and strangeness to keep a newly crowned teenager coming back for more.  My memories of the film were faint, but not too obscured by time to feel as distant as, say, Explorers.  I still think trauma may have had something to do with that one.

 So, House is the story of Roger Cobb, a horror novelist who moves into his aunt’s home after her death.  The house is filed with memories, both of Roger’s youth with his aunt and the disappearance of Roger’s son.  Roger recalls seeing the young tyke in the pool, but, after jumping in after the kid, finds himself alone in the pool.  Much like a werewolf bar mitzvah, that is both spooky and scary.

 

Roger finds himself alone in the house, separated from soap opera actress/wife Sandy Sinclair (Kay Lenz), devoted to the idea that he is finally going to write his Vietnam memoirs.  Unfortunately, Roger is beset by odd neighbors, including Harold (George Wendt from Cheers), and some poltergeists, one of which is quite scratchy and lives in the closet.  Metaphor, anyone?  Seriously, though, the house comes at Roger from some odd angles.  The missing kid showing up in the window’s reflection, a troll-like version of his wife, and the phantom of his dead aunt, warning him about the house’s attempts to trick Roger.

 

Ultimately, the movie marries the threads of Roger’s Vietnam memories and his missing son, culminating in a showdown between a zombified war buddy and Roger.  I remember reading a review of this movie in a rag called The Horror Show from my youth which ended with the line (and I’m certainly paraphrasing from memory), “The film ends, perhaps not in as satisfying a manner as one would like, but, like all nightmares, it does end.”  I think that’s about right.  The problem I’ve found with almost all ‘haunted house’ movies is that, once you establish the creepiness of the haunting, how do you end it?  Do you personify the house in a single entity like in House or do you go all psychological like The Haunting?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s an appropriate question.

 

New Memories: Upon viewing this movie as an adult, I couldn’t bring myself to dislike it.  There are some goofy effects, some jokes that fall flat, some moments when the tone doesn’t quite jive, but I couldn’t hate it.  House is the cinematic equivalent of a puppy for a horror fan.  It just wants to please you soooo much, and it often succeeds, but it’s the effort that counts.  The story, by and large, makes sense, and I really like television’s The Greatest American Hero, William Katt, in this one.  I think he gives a pretty fun performance, if not always a consistent one.  It was an important film for me as a burgeoning horror fan, understanding the delicate balance between horror and comedy.  I have now seen House twice since my reintroduction to the movie, and it has been a wholly satisfying experience.   It does my heart good to hear that a new generation has discovered this movie, this strange movie.  Much like Big Ben, it won’t lay down and die, and I, for one, am happy to hear it.

 

wiseacrefilmsEthan Wiley makes a return to the House with Bo and Rob and recalls some fascinating tales from his years in the business, from sweeping floors at Industrial Light and Magic, to his puppeteering prowess in Gremlins and the mad skills of John Ratzenberger. Check out Ethan’s site as well, Wiseacre Films, for news on his current projects.

 

A big ‘thanks’ to Ethan for his contribution to this episode! You can hear it all here, or scroll down just a little bit:

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‘The Monster Squad’

 

The Monster Squad (1987)
Directed by: Fred Dekker
Written by: Shane Black and Fred Dekker
Starring: Andre Gower as Sean Crenshaw
Robby Kiger as Patrick
Brent Chalem as Horace (The Fat Kid)
Michael Faustino as Eugene

Tagline: “Call them for a monster-ous good time!”

By: Jason Plissken

Pre-Screening Memories: I haven’t seen The Monster Squad since I was in high school, but since it had “Monster” in the title, it was required viewing. I would scour the TV listings every week, checking for what creatures would be featured for the week. This one sounded like the Mother Lode, in that it featured all the classic monsters from Universal Studios: Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The movie came out in 1987, but I didn’t see it until it came on HBO about a year later. My memories of the film are pretty vague but I did learn a number of things from watching it:

  • I remember the movie was corny but still able to keep my attention. There were several little details about the kids in the film that I wanted for my childhood: to battle monsters as a young kid, a really cool treehouse (that was two-story, no less!), and a neighborhood girl like Patrick’s sister (played by Lisa Fuller, which was really the height of her film career, unless you count Teen Witch).

  • I thought that it was really cool that the main character, Sean Krenshaw (played by Andre Gower), was able to watch a nearby drive-in movie from his roof. I could not have cared less if I could not hear the dialogue, just watching it would have been enough to occupy me. I could do the whole Mystery Science Theater 3000 thing, I suppose, and make up my own dialogue.

  • I remember Fat Kid declaring that the “Wolf man had nards.” Childish, I know, but ‘nards’ is just a funny word.

  • It was the first time I heard sex referred to as “dorking.”Again, I was a kid, these things were endlessly fascinating to me.

  • I remember a World War II bomber loaded with Dracula’s coffin in the
    beginning. At the time, it seemed perfectly plausible for the ancient tomb of Nosferatu to circle over middle America for no apparent reason whatsoever.

I remember having a fondness for the film in the way it handled its leads, not treating them as typical “Hollywood” kids, in much the same way that “Stand By Me” and “The Goonies” seemed to. They never seemed to talk down to their targeted audience.

Will the exclusive “Monster Squad” still allow membership to Jason now that he’s an old guy? Find out in the podcast here:

Or download it here.

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