A young man moves into the old house where his parents died and awakens the the spirits that haunt the place…and a supernatural adventure ensues.
Ethan Wiley, 1987
A terrified couple hands their baby to a friend and fearfully confronts a spirit who asks for “the skull”; when he’s denied, he kills them both. Years later, Jesse (Arye Gross) arrives at the house where his parents died under mysterious circumstances when he was just a baby. He’s dragged his girlfriend along, then totally ignores her as he finds old newspapers about his parents’ deaths and, going further back, the great (great?) grandfather after whom he was named, an outlaw cowboy in the Old West. Discovering that he might be buried on the plot with treasure, Jesse and his friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark) dig up his ancestor’s grave. That’s when shit gets weird.
The tagline for this movie’s poster on IMDb declares “It’s getting weirder!” and the movie certainly lives up to that promise. This film is so off-the-wall it verges on brilliance. The film contains a crystal skull, a caterpuppy, stop-motion dinosaurs, cowboys, a jungle in the basement…what starts as a tame horror movie morphs into a weird comedy-adventure movie set entirely in one house. The acting is terrible, the dialogue teetering between cheesy and so-cheesy-it’s-brilliant (I caught myself saying “Thanks, Charlie” a couple of days later when something didn’t go my way), and the logic is non-existent. Just when you think the movie is as weird as it can get, it throws John Ratzenburger as an electrician/adventurer at you for no apparent reason. “Looks like you’ve got some kinda alternate universe in there or something.” No kidding? It also has 80s style stop-motion creatures, which any longtime readers will know are a particular weakness of mine.
The movie’s racism and sexism are genuinely appalling, though. The women are all shrill, irritating, or objectified to a disturbing degree (witness the character literally referred to in the final credits simply as “Virgin”, who actually doesn’t get a single line). The characters are mostly distinctly unlikable, from whiny main character Jesse to his wisecracking sidekick Charlie and, for some reason, Bill Maher. Amy Yasbeck’s Jana, who doesn’t get much screentime as Charlie’s singer girlfriend, is kinda cute, as is Gramps, the zombie cowboy great (great?) grandfather that Jesse unsuccessfully tries to hide. There’s no real plot or theme to this movie, and the peril is laughably unperilous throughout. I mentioned before that it verges on brilliance; it doesn’t make it there, sitting tenuously in between madcap genius and lazily weird with no purpose. The filmmakers clearly had some great ideas, but without a thread to pull them together, all they’ll ever be is like John Ratzenburger’s cameo; amusing but aimless. It’s worth a watch as a kind of cult curiosity, though.
House II: The Second Story on IMDb