Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bia Hơi and Takeout

House (1986)
directed by Steve Miner
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

House begins with just the right mix of horror and comedy. The comedy isn't funny so much as strange and the horror is discombobulating: noises, sights, and the perfect California residence as the star of the film. George Wendt, the neighbor, is just like the house, a little off and a little confusing. But you warm up to him, even as you wonder about his role in the scheme of things.

The movie's protagonist, Roger Cobb, is a Vietnam veteran whose son was kidnapped from his yard - this yard - several years prior. Since the war, Cobb has prospered as a famous novelist, although he is separated from his wife, a famous TV actor. The house was his aunt's, and when she kills herself, she leaves it to Roger.

If you're thinking that the loss of a son and the Vietnam War are heavy themes for a horror comedy, you're right. The end of the film suggests that Roger finds some resolution on both fronts - he is hounded by his failure to save a friend from enemy capture and torture in the jungle - but doesn't say how much of that peace is won by retreating further and further into his own mind. If the house is responsible for his aunt's death, then isn't everything that Roger experiences simply one more haunting? If so, isn't he worse off than before?

Does the house win? The movie doesn't say, or even suggest it, and I get the impression that the trickier implications of the set-up weren't considered. Fred Dekker also wrote The Monster Squad, similarly sloppy. This is more bizarre, and occasionally a lot of fun, like when the sexy neighbor just wants a babysitter for her kid. But it isn't the right movie for Roger, poor guy.