Directors: James Isaac and David Blyth
Writers: Allyn Warner (credited as Alan Smithee) and Leslie Bohem
Starring: Lance Henriksen, Brion James, Rita Taggart, Dedee Pfeiffer, Aron Eisenberg, Thom Bray, and Matt Clark
House III: The Horror Show is a completely stand-alone entry to the House series, with no relation at all to the two previous films in theme or plot. When it was first released in America it was released simply as The Horror Show, because it was so different to what came before in the series, but it kept the House name internationally. While it was being made it did have a bit of a messy production, with the original director David Blyth being replaced quite early on with James Isaac. Writer Allyn Warner is also credited as Alan Smithee which is usually the name used when someone wants to disown something they’ve worked on. At the time it received overwhelmingly negative reviews, but it has more recently found a cult following.
Compared to the first two films, that were both comedy horrors, there’s almost no comedy in this one. Instead, it’s simply full-on horror. Detective Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen) is traumatised by his hunt for serial killer Max Jenke (Brion James), and even after his execution he’s still haunted by the ghost of him. Lucas sees him everywhere, in the car seat next to him, in his food, and on TV. He starts questioning his own sanity and his family become afraid of him, as they start to worry about him as he has increasingly violent outbursts. There’s a really good scene where they’re watching some stand up comedy on TV, and in Lucas’s eyes it’s Jenke on screen. The rest of the family are laughing and enjoying themselves together on the sofa, while Lucas is in an armchair distanced from them and watching in horror as the man he thought was dead is on screen.
Throughout the first half of the film suspense is built up really well with Lucas feeling like he’s going insane and not accepting that Jenke is somehow coming back to haunt him. His life starts to fall apart and as the killings start he’s blamed for them and no one believes he’s innocent. As the film progresses it becomes very obvious that none of it makes sense. You have to just go with it and not think too much about the plot. Thankfully that’s easy to do. Brion James is clearly having a lot of fun as the ghostly serial killer Jenke, and that keeps the film entertaining.
The effects in the film are really well done. The electric chair scene at the beginning where Jenke survives the initial shock and then they up the voltage until his body starts to bloat and goes up in flames looks gruesome. There are good practical effects later in the film as well such as Jenke appearing in the turkey that Lucas is carving. It also veers towards body horror at points, especially towards the end of the film. Director James Isaac knew what he was doing with effects, having previously worked on effects for films such as David Cronenberg’s The Fly.
Overall, House III is a lot better than the first two films. It doesn’t have any of the comedy, but it makes up for that with a good story, body horror, and great performances from both Lance Henriksen and Brion James. Definitely worth a watch if you’re looking for underrated and underseen horror films.
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Definitely. A lot better than the first two and completely different. Shouldn’t really be called House. I’ve got the 4th one to watch tomorrow.
Didn’t know there was a 4th look forward to reading that