This is the first time I've seen any of these movies as an adult. In the case of House III, it's the first time I've ever seen it. (More on that piece of shit, later.)
Surprise! The house is haunted. That would be a pretty big let down if the house weren't the centerpiece of a movie called House, right? Well, don't worry. The series doesn't make that mistake until House III. (Again: more on that piece of shit, later.)
Roger has a lot going on in his life. The fact that he's an extremely popular horror writer doesn't matter to the plot in the least, nor does the fact that his wife is a super famous actress. Meanwhile, Roger's exceedingly boring flashbacks to his war experiences, which look like they were filmed in the garden section of a home improvement store, don't figure into the plot until the very end. The 'Nam pay-off is a lot less exciting than the setup was worth, but it involves Richard Moll who I'm always excited to see in movies.
Here's a silly nit-pick: when you first see Norm, his hands are covered in grime. When he shakes hands with Roger, you expect the old cliche where he doesn't realize his palm is dirty until he rubs it on his shirt. I usually like it when a movie spares us the cliche, but here it feels like a sneeze which won't dislodge. Earlier in the movie, a delivery boy wanders into the house and carefully places a sack of groceries on the table in the entry, then wanders upstairs only to find Roger's aunt hanging from her neck. Listen, I needed to see that sack of groceries topple when the boy goes running out of the house. It's easily the biggest disappointment of my life.
The movie also speeds us right through the setup: a young couple played by Arye Gross and Lar Park Lincoln (Tina Shepard from the Jason movies) inherit a house which was constructed as a kind of modern day temple for a Mayan crystal skull. When Gross's party-hardy friend (Fright Night's Jonathon Stark) shows up for a weekend of drinking, Gross's relationship with Lincoln is strained to the point she runs off with Bill Maher... yes, the smug comedian used to be an amusing actor, and while the subplot isn't nearly as egregious as the ones in the original movie, it's really not worth going into here.
Anyhow, their possession of the crystal skull causes a number of strange things happen in the house. It's a movie that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it doesn't have to. The special effects are good, the pacing is swift, and the filmmakers know exactly what kind of movie they're going for... until they go full western in the end.
Nope. Turns out it's yet another unrelated sequel. I never saw it because it wasn't called House III in the United States for reasons that are still a little vague to me. (Here's the Wikipedia article on the matter.) I'm not surprised to see the movie was shoehorned into the already confusing La Casa series. I'm also not surprised to find it's a mediocre movie. Completionists will moderately enjoy it, horror fans will stomach it, and nobody else should come within ten feet of this absolutely forgettable turd.
The movie's not entirely unlikable. There's a scene, early on, in which Henriksen faces the killer, who's taken a little girl hostage. James, who's holding all the cards, tells Henriksen to drop the gun. We've seen this scene a million times, but when Henriksen complies, James cuts the little girl's head off and throws it at Henriksen. It's a great what-the-fuck scene, which is immediately dampened by the reveal it was all just a dream.
I have a question: What's the deal with children con artists in these kinds of movies? Henriksen's son, (played by a young Aron Eisenberg) runs an ongoing scam in which he fabricates product deficiencies in order to get companies to send him free stuff. The daughter in the next film is also a fraud, and there was a similarly mischievous kid in Rachel Talalay's oddly brilliant Ghost in the Machine, which I featured in last year's 31 Days of Gore.
At the end of the day, it's a movie called House that's not about a house. It doesn't even show an establishing shot of the fucking house it's set in.
Early on, Roger's killed in a car crash, which leaves his wife and daughter struggling to get by in the old house. The house is haunted, of course, but whose side are the ghosts on? For the first half of the movie, they terrorize the mother so much she begins to question her sanity. Later, when the bad guys show up, the ghosts seem intent on protecting the family.
Oh, I forgot to mention that part: there are human villains this time around. And how's this for originality? The sniveling weasel of the group is named Burke.
I was dreading House IV, but it's not nearly as bad as I remember it being. Cheesy? Yes. Schmaltzy? Unbelievably so. It's like Touched by an Angel with bits of horror sprinkled throughout. The lead actress, Terri Treas, is much better than the material she's given. Denny Dillon, who plays the housemaid, is an odd casting choice, but she isn't bad either.
this scene is not ripping off Twin Peaks in any shape or form
This requires a bit of backstory:
So it turns out Burke wants to run the family out of the house because he's promised the land to a mobster who deals in toxic waste disposal. (It was the 90s... toxic waste was a hot topic in both children's entertainment and adults'.) One minute you're watching a low-key horror movie, the next you're watching Burke and his cartoonish goons make their way through some kind of underground factory in which employees fill 50-gallon drums with toxic sludge, then amend the TOXIC WASTE labels to read NON-TOXIC WASTE. It seems it would have been easier just to get barrels that didn't say TOXIC WASTE in the first place, but I digress.
there, fixed it
Anyway, back to the disgusting part: Burke meets with the mastermind behind this toxic waste operation, a dwarf who produces so much phlegm—yes, phlegm—he has to occasionally suction it out of a hole in his throat. (You can stop reading this at any time, mind you.) Well, ol' Burke pisses this guy off, so the dwarf has his minions hold Burke down and proceeds to empty a glass of the mucus right into Burke's mouth.
That, my friends, is the exact moment House IV became my favorite movie in the entire series. Never mind 99% of the movie is garbage, that scene takes the cake.