House 3: The Horror Show

After checking out the first House flick and digging it I skipped right ahead to the third one, given the subheading ‘The Horror Show.’ I did this because it was more readily available to me than than the second and because they’re anthology anyways but mainly because it stars Lance Henriksen, who I’m a huge fan of. This one has a super bad reputation for some reason and I see from some reviews (Ebert, notably) that they had no idea this was even connected to the House franchise and thought it was an attempt at a standalone horror flick. This is understandable as it has almost zero connective tissue to at least the first film, which is odd they’ve used the House name but no matter, it’s still a perfectly entertaining, impressively gruesome cop versus slasher outing. Henriksen is Detective Lucas McCarthy, a tough cop and gentle family man who has successfully tracked and apprehended ‘Meat Cleaver’ Max (the great Brion James), a profoundly vicious mass murderer whose weapon of choice is, you guessed it, a giant meat cleaver. When they try to fry the fucker in the electric chair it literally goes haywire and somehow Max’s ghost is able to escape via electric currents and continue to kill as well as make life hard for Lucas and his family as he lurks about their home turning inanimate objects very animate. What to do? Lucas must think outside the box of his usual cop skill set towards more metaphysical methods before Max literally kills everyone. Henriksen is terrific and gives the role a genuinely haunted aura and PTSD afflicted frenzy that is very effective and believable. James is a mad dog monster as Max, imbuing him with a devilish trademark laugh and chewing scenery like there’s no tomorrow. There’s some very unnerving prosthetic effects, a standout moment sees a turkey dinner some nauseatingly to life in front of Lucas, provoking a hilariously deadpan reaction from the man. While I don’t see quite what this has to do with the House franchise in essence and could have easily just been it’s own unrelated thing, I really enjoyed it for it’s energy, the brutal cat and mouse game between Henriksen and James who are both at the top of their acting game here and the inspired, deranged special effects. Good times.

-Nate Hill


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