House III: The Horror Show (1989)

Apparently a House movie in name only, at least over here in Europe. In the US this is merely The Horror Show, a film completely unrelated to both House and House II: The Second Story aside from the fact that it features a house and human beings are in it. Oh and Sean S. Cunningham produced it. 

Released the same year as Wes Craven’s similarly electro-themed ShockerThe Horror Show is enjoyable enough. Any movie starring Lance Henrickson in a lead role is worth a watch (even The Visitor) especially when he plays an obsessive cop chasing a serial killer called Meat Cleaver Max played by Blade Runner and Crimewave‘s Brion James. James scenery chews his way through the movie as the psychotic Max who is ultimately zapped on the electric chair only to return from the dead as a now-electricity charged madman hellbent on murdering everyone Henrickson cares about. The execution scene where Max rides the lightning is very well done and stands up there with The Green Mile in the extremely cluttered sub-genre of movies that feature death by electric chair. The scene’s cherry on top ocurs when Max, barbecued within an inch of his life, rises from the electric chair to assure Henrickson: “I’m coming back to tear your world apart… I’m going to fuck you up!” Nice.

As with a lot of horror films in the 80s, the decade where Cronenberg ruled the climate, The Horror Show tries its hand at some weird body horror stuff. At one point Henrickson’s daughter has a mutant baby bump and he himself develops a bleeding, pulsating orifice in his chest that could have been lifted directly from Videodrome‘s special effects department. 

While not a “proper” House movie, a definition that the first two movies established as being pretty loose anyway, it does work as an entry in that franchise. From what I gather, its a series of films best viewed as an anthology rather than a continuing saga and in that context The Horror Show certainly qualifies. It has the extended dream sequences of the first film and an actual house at the centre of its chaos. There are a lot of BIG nutball performances, namely from James, that are entertaining and enough splat and carnage to please the hardcore genre hounds. I suspect its forced inclusion into the House series has given it a shelf-life longer than it may have originally earned – it would have likely been forgotten as a lesser Shocker, itself a lesser Craven flick – but I’m definitely glad to have got to it in one way or another. Plus, given that House is pretty crap, The Horror Show is that rare horror threequel that is actually better than the original.

Watched on Arrow blu-ray

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