Famous horror author Roger Cobb (William Katt) inherits a spooky old house after his spooky old aunt hangs herself in it. He had previously suspected that the house may be haunted when his young son disappeared without a trace from its swimming pool a few years before - turns out that the house is sort of sentient and evil and inhabited by otherworldly creatures and also the ghost of one of his dead 'Nam buddies.
I was surprised that this movie was as good as it was. It was well written and funny without being a full tilt horror comedy, just sort of utilizing the ridiculousness of the situation.
The character development was good, particularly the character of the neighbour (George Wendt) - there's a scene where he steals buddy's address book, I figured it was because he was a creepy stalker or whatever but actually he just wants to call buddy's erstwhile wife to let her know that her former husband is having some mental problems. He's actually concerned. It's nice.
They also delved fairly deeply into Roger Cobb's character to make his descent into possible insanity more convincing. The fact that he's a horror fiction writer actually gets brought up when he starts seeing demonic entities in his closet, it's not just something the writers did to make it easier for other writers to identify with the character. His acting is also pretty convincing so that's good.
The fact that the house is not necessarily haunted but rather straight up evil is sort of Lovecraftian, as are the creatures that crawl out of the evil Narnia in the closets and medicine cabinets and pools and so on, which makes the whole movie more appealing. A little Lovecraft goes a long way into making a movie seem more interesting.
Plus the idea of a house that hates people and makes them go crazy and kill themselves, like Shirley Jackson's Hill House, or to a shittier extent, the hotel room in 1408, is pretty cool anyway.
So this movie starts out with a pretty neat idea and, like the foundation of a house, builds a pretty solid story on that idea. But then my house metaphor and the movie itself fall apart towards the end. The problem with this movie is that there is waaaaaaay too much stuff going on. The guy is living in an evil house that killed his aunt, cool, he's also suffering PTSD while trying to write a memoir of his experiences in Vietnam, and investigating the mysterious disappearance of his son, and trying to fend off the weird lumpy creatures that live in his closet, and trying to nail the hot blonde neighbour lady, and possibly going crazy.
All of this stuff is really interesting and gives a depth not found in the average horror flick, but when it comes time to wrap the movie up it makes for a disorderly jumble. Pretty much everything gets resolved which is impressive, but isn't that satisfying. I could have done perfectly well without him finding his kid, or resolving his Vietnam guilt. As it is, it feels like they couldn't decide what they wanted the movie to be about so they kinda threw everything in there and ended up with plot salad.
This movie is good but not great 80s horror, good for an evening when you want to have a few laughs and see a few monsters but you find Stuart Gordon movies too scary.
Directed by: Steve Miner. Written by: Ethan Wiley. Starring: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz, Mary Stavin.