House (1985)

“House” is one of those movies that’s almost super cool, but ends up landing with a bit of a splat thanks to a series of structural drawbacks. The screenplay is actually pretty solid, with a number of character-building moments and reasonably well established dynamics that help propel the narrative forward. It’s also particularly interesting how it treats its male characters with uncommonly acute awareness of their own emotions: William Katt’s central character Roger is reeling from PTSD from Vietnam service while processing the disappearance of his child and divorce from his wife, while neighbor George Wendt is nakedly lonely for male companionship and sincerely worried about his new friend. It stands out as impressively layered for an ’80s genre offering, and maybe that’s why it hurts when the narrative starts skidding out of control. Director Steve Miner struggles with the tonal shifts from horror to comedy that are baked into the screenplay, which makes for several jarring adjustments for the audience that eventually make the experience a little frustrating: It’s hard to discern what’s meant to be funny and what’s meant to be horrific, so all of it becomes a bit jumbled and uneven. However, it’s hard to dismiss the movie outright: It has its heart in the right place and it’s blessed with a playful atmosphere and charming special effects that make the whole thing at least palatable, and Harry Manfredini’s score is memorable. It’s just that it could have been so much better.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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