Tag Archives: spirits

House Series – Review: Part 2

3 Dec

Through all my research into the House movies, there’s nothing that really points to them being success with critics or audiences, nor do I see them really killing it at the box office. That being said, we’re back to talk about the third and fourth entries into the series. I’m just not sure how these movies got this far. While the first movie balanced horror and comedy in a pretty entertaining way, I had more fun with the second movie that focused mainly on the comedy and provided some over the top adventure along the way. They were good movies, but nothing great. Let’s see how the later movies in the series fair.

Let’s start in 1989 with The Horror Show. This movie had a bit of an identity crisis before it was even released. In non-USA countries, this movie was marketed as House III, but not in America. We still got House IV over here, so I’m going to still treat this as the third film in the series.

For years Detective Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen) has been hunting a serial killer known as Meat Cleaver Max (Brion James). After a particularly grisly showdown in an abandoned warehouse, Lucas finally arrests him and Max is sentenced to death. The day finally arrives for the execution, but Max doesn’t go down without a fight and warns Lucas as enough electricity is going through him to power a small village that he will be back for Lucas and his family. Of course, Lucas doesn’t believe that, but when odd things start happening around his and his family’s new house, he begins to get worried. Things only get worse when he actually starts seeing Max in his house and on his tv. After a parapsychologist tells Lucas that Max had enough electricity flowing through him to put his soul into another dimension, McCarthy has to find enough electricity to bring Max back and destroy him for good before anything can happen to him and his family.

So this is a hard movie to place into the world that House has built. It’s certainly not a comedy and it’s debatable as to wether it’s actually the third film or not. In some places you see this movie titled House III: The Horror Show and in other places it’s only called The Horror Show. How did that happen? Like I said, this movie does away with the comedy, and that does make for a focused movie in terms of tone, but The Horror Show also suffers from a major thing that the first movie did. That is that the story and the action and the horror simply didn’t go far enough to have really any effect on me. It’s clear they were going for something similar to A Nightmare on Elm Street with Max possessing certain objects in the house and having a dark wit about him, but he’s not in the movie all that much and when he isn’t, I couldn’t really feel his presence. A lot of the movie is Henriksen trying to either figure out how Max could be returning while also trying to convince the police he isn’t part of the violent things Max is still doing. It makes the whole second act feel extra long and really dry.

There are certain elements to The Horror Show that will certainly draw die hard fans of the genre to it. For one thing, seeing Lance Henriksen and Brion James, two great character acts, work side by side in main roles is a lot of fun. Both of them bring their best to the roles, and I really wish James was in this movie more. He stole every scene he was in, but Henriksen certainly keeps the boat afloat. There’s also a level of camp to the story with the parapsychologist and the talk of spirits traveling to other dimensions. It’s like The Horror Show almost wanted to be a horror/comedy, but the powers that be just wouldn’t allow it. I already compared this movie to A Nightmare on Elm Street, so there are times where the special effects are pushed to look like mid series Nightmare movies, but it never quite looks as good as those movies did.

After letting this one sit for awhile after I watched it, I’ve found less to really enjoy. It started off strong, but as the plot went forward the excitement faded away, I actually found The Horror Show pretty boring. Like I said, the fact that Henriksen and James star side by side make this worth checking out for die hard fans, but the scares happen too far apart and the drama that is built up is just bland and feels kind of forced. I have to say, I miss the humor of the other two because that at least made up for the lack of scares. Can’t say the same about this one.

Final Grade: C-

Somehow or another, this series got to a number 4. This time the haunting went direct to video with 1992’s House IV.

Roger Cobb (William Katt) has looked after his family’s old house for years, and has even gotten his wife Kelly (Terri Treas) and his daughter Laurel (Melissa Clayton) to be protective of it. After a particularly heated conversation with Burke (Scott Burkholder), his step brother, to sell him the house, Roger and his family leave to go home, but along the way get into a car accident and Roger is killed. Now Kelly and Laurel have officially moved into the Cobb family house, but is still pestered by Burke, who is actually working for a gangster, to sell the house so his boss can use the area for nefarious purposes. As Burke’s threats become more real, Kelly begins to realize that there are spirits lurking in the house that want to make themselves known and have a message of their own.

By this point, the House films have completely worn out their welcome. This is just another retread of what we already saw in the previous movie, but this is done way worse. The first glaring error that killed the first part of the movie for me was the complete lack of continuity. Why bring back Roger Cobb, played once again by William Katt, but have no connection to the first House. Not only that, but why completely erase all traces of continuity. The house is in a different place, it looks completely different, he has a step brother now, a different wife, and a daughter instead of a son! Why go through all that trouble to erase everything we thought we knew about a character when you could have just created a new one from scratch. It was really distracting to have to try and figure out if this was the same Roger Cobb.

That’s just the first offense. House IV is an all around disaster. The comedy isn’t funny and the horror isn’t scary, so what exactly is the point. By the time I had to sit through a scene of a singing pizza man, I knew I was  done for. The humor in this movie is so plain and juvenile and poorly timed that it just made for an awkward experience. There was one darkly funny scene towards the end that had me laughing, but that was it. Something also happens in the middle of the movie that was just absolutely disgusting and out of place. It wasn’t funny or disturbing, but just plain old gross out humor that was drawn out and just ugly. Finally, I hated every single character in this movie, especially Laurel, the daughter character. Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard and the lines she had to perform were just terrible. No one acts like the people in this movie, which served to be another distraction.

House IV is easily the worst of the series, but I’m thrilled to say that this is where it all ended. What a sour note to go out on. The humor is dumb and often gross, there’s virtually nothing frightening, and the characters are so annoying it’s almost unbearable. Oh, and let’s not forget the erroneous continuity or lack there of. This is just a mess brought to the extreme. It’s an ugly, unfunny sequel that completely negates everything the original had going for it while also taking the original’s flaws and amplifying them. Don’t put yourself through watching this even if your a fan of the other films.

Final Grade: F

I think these past two review of this series has shown that the House movies are less than spectacular. They never really reach any kind of touchstone that makes them memorable. The first two are fun and the third tries to take it in a new direction while the fourth is cinematic vomit. These films aren’t essential, but I can see where some enjoyment can be had.

 

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Ju-On: The Grudge – Review

18 Sep

There was a point in time when it seemed like Hollywood was just going to start remaking Japanese horror films instead of thinking up their own stuff. One of the more popular examples is 2004 film The Grudge, which is actually based off of a 2002 film Ju-On: The Grudge. The Ju-On series consists of five other films other than this one, but this is the more popular one, and the only one I will be reviewing as of right now. Ju-On is a strange, startlingly slow, and occasionally boring example of J-Horror that may not really be everyone’s cup of tea.

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When a volunteer house keeper, Rika (Megumi Okina), begins work for an elderly woman in a house with a violent past, she never thought she would be stepping into a world full of horror and death. Other than Rika, a handful of other people have been inside the house, which condemns them to the vengeance of two spirits inhabiting the house that were brutally murdered. One by one, the people who have associated themselves with the house begin being stalked and tormented by these spirits before they are ultimately killed. No one who has been in the house can solve the mystery before it is too late.

The narrative of Ju-On: The Grudge is not like the American versions, despite both versions being directed by Takashi Shimizu. The Japanese version is strange, in that the story is told in episodic segments that are presented out of order. I didn’t expect this to happen at first, so I was completely lost for a little bit before I figured out that the order was completely messed up. Once I caught on, things began making sense and I started to have more fun with the film. This is actually a lot more difficult to piece together than a film like Pulp Fiction, because there are random jumps in time that are never explained and really forces the viewer to be paying attention to the timeline to keep with the pace.

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In terms of scare factor, well maybe I’m being a wuss here, but these movies have always freaked me out more than any other horror film. This is my first time seeing the Japanese version, but the American ones were not bad at all. Still, needing to sit through a movie with my two worst enemies (the two spirits) was fun. The sounds and movements of these ghosts are haunting, and made me not look forward to closing my eyes to go to sleep that night. I would be lying if I said I didn’t glance over at my stairs to check to see if there were any bloodshot eyes staring at me. The fact that these things just appear without any warning and mentally torment you until they kill you is way more than enough to make my skin crawl.

That being said, there is a whole lot of nothing that happens in this movie. The scenes of dialogue or plot and character development are really not that special at all. The characters are pretty dull and aren’t memorable at all. The parts of the movie that are most enjoyable are when the movie tries to scare us, and that seems to work 95% of the time. Unfortunately, this is a 93 minute long movie, and it can’t all be scares. There has to be something of a plot, but this one is confusing and just plain boring. That’s really a lot of points taken off of Ju-On to the point where the whole experience is pretty much ruined.

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Ju-On: The Grudge will bore many a people, that is a fact. A fact that has been strengthened with how bored I was during a large portion of the movie. I still can’t deny how freaky and nerve wracking this movie can be. If it only kept a consistent level of horror and dread throughout the whole thing, I would consider this one of my favorite horror films of all time. Unfortunately, it is bogged down by a confusing story and characters who really don’t mean a thing. This is an important film for the genre, but it really isn’t the awesome film that a lot of people say that it is.