A feature I’m gonna be starting soon over at my own website is where I discuss the history of a horror film, horror film series, a sub genre, or whatever else that bares a history lesson of sorts. Since this week I’m not gonna have a chance to watch a movie for you guys, I figure I’ll launch into it here and talk about the House movies.
No, not the 1970’s weird ass Japanese film, I’m talking about the ’80s films.
The first movie, released in 1986, starred William Katt, who is mostly known for being The Greatest American Hero, as Roger, a horror writer who’s having a difficult life. His wife left him and their kid vanished. He’s being pressured to write another horror novel but he rather write about his experiences in Vietnam. Also his aunt died and he decides to move into her giant ass house, in hopes it’ll inspire him to write. Then weird shit starts happening. Ghosts start showing up, along with weird monster things, and he’s haunted by the spirit of his friend who died in Vietnam, played by Richard Moll. George Wendt (TV’s NORM!) is the nosy neighbor. It’s a classic movie with a great blend of horror and comedy.
It was a somewhat successful film so of course a sequel was ordered and we then get House II: The Second Story. Get it? Story…house…yeah. Anyway, this is pretty much a “name only” sequel as it as nothing to do with the first film. And while the first film was more horror with some comedy, this is pretty much equal horror AND comedy, which can be subjective.
House II is about two friends named Jesse and Charlie who move into Jesse’s parents house, which is more of a mansion, along with their girlfriends. Jesse finds a picture of his grandfather holding a crystal skull and they think that “Gramps” (as he’s called in the film) most likely had the skull buried with him. So they go to the family cemetery, dig up Gramps, and finds his reanimated corpse. It’s explained in the movie WHY he’s back to life but I won’t get into it here. Anyway, Gramps reveals the mansion is actually a Mayan temple and each room is a doorway to an alternate dimension and time. There’s a Halloween party, Bill Maher shows up to be a royal dickhead, and in continuing the theme of having “Cheers” actors in House movies, John Ratzenberger shows up. I love this movie but if you’re a die hard fan of the first movie, I can understand why it’d leave a bad taste in your mouth. But I still say check it out.
Ok now here is where things get REALLY weird. If you’re a fan of the first two movies, you probably noticed this. For a few years, another sequel didn’t come out then one day out of NOWHERE you suddenly saw this in your video stores:
And you most likely said to yourself “House IV?! What happened to House III? The hell?!” Well…here’s where my little history lesson comes into play. If you haven’t Googled it already. And if you did, you’re a spoilsport.
You have the International market to thank for this confusion. In 1989, producer Sean S. Cunningham (who also had a hand in making the Friday the 13th films) helped make a film called The Horror Show. It stars Lance Henriksen and Brion James (the biggest THAT GUY guy in film history) and it’s about a serial killer who is killed via electric chair in prison but his spirit comes back and haunts Detective Lance Henriksen and his family…in a house.
(By the way, everybody involved is aware how similar that movie sounds to the Wes Craven cult classic Shocker, which is possibly why the international market decided to group it in with the House series.)
So when this movie was sent to other countries, they called it “House III: The Horror Show” because that’s what they do. (I dread the post I’m gonna be doing about the Zombie films later on.) So when it was time to make the ACTUAL House III, they realized this little problem and instead of ignoring the international title, they just said “fuck it” and named THEIR movie House IV. Confused? You should be cause it makes no sense.
House IV is also produced by Cunningham and it brings back William Katt as Roger, who is now married and has a daughter. But Roger is soon killed, leaving the daughter in a wheelchair and his wife in a haunted house. As usual, hilarity ensues. So in case you missed it, House IV is actually House III, while House III has NOTHING to do with the series. It’s literally the Halloween III of the House series (another history post I’ll probably be doing soon.) and it sort of makes you wish film producers actually knew what the hell they were doing.
So anyway in conclusion, if you ever wondered WHY the series seems to jump from 2 to 4 and you were confused, here is the reason. I hope this was educational in some way and let me know if there’s anything I missed or another series of movies you’d like to see me give a history lesson on. I’m full of knowledge, yo.