House is another one of those horror movies that had intriguingly gruesome cover art that greatly appealed to my 13-year-old brain. Of course, I never got the opportunity to watch it, so 30 some odd years later I was very excited to sit down and take it in this past weekend.
To put it kindly, I was …not…impressed. “This is what everyone is reminiscing so fondly about?” I thought. “But it’s so stupid!”
I was, however, greatly impressed by the bizarre artwork that adorned the fantastically wallpapered walls of the titular house. They looked like marvelously weird Gertrude Abercrombie/Frida Kahlo/Salvador Dali hybrids creations, and I could have watched a whole movie about them alone!
I stopped watching the film about halfway through. I’ve only got so much time allotted to me on this earth, and slogging through this silly film was not how I wanted to spend it. But in zipping through it afterward to grab some stills of these nutty paintings for a blog post, I wondered if maybe…the art wasn’t somehow important to the plot? I mean, if I was going to the trouble of sharing the art, shouldn’t I at least finish the film to get an understanding of how it played into the story? So the next day I revisited the film. And I finished it. For art!
Ok, so maybe it wasn’t THAT bad. I think I just wasn’t in the mood for it, in that initial viewing. If you’ve not seen it, it’s more or less just a haunted house story with some comedy, ridiculous but fun creature effects, and I guess you could say it’s got a lot of heart. The short version of the story is that Roger Cobb is a best-selling author; he and his wife are divorced and they have lost a son, and he’s moved back into his late aunt Elizabeth’s house to focus on writing his war memoirs. Turns out the house is balls-out bonkers haunted. In an interview, the director as described this as “a tongue-in-cheek, Mad magazine-style, effects-heavy hootenanny with goofy neighbors and comical monsters.” Sure, I guess that sums it up
I do have a lot of questions because so much of this is baffling. Why did his elderly aunt kill herself at the beginning of the film? And from the flashbacks, it looks like Roger and his wife and child were living in his aunt’s home at one point? While she was still living there? I mean, he was a famous writer and she was a famous actress, so why didn’t they have their own place? And getting back to the aunt–what was the deal with the paintings? Over the course of the film, you can see how she, as an artist, was no doubt influenced and inspired by the haunted goings-on in the house, and so I think there should have been at least a tiny bit of focus and backstory about her art and practice. And it turns out the paintings were *sort of* important, at least one of them was–but I’ll not give that away, in case you, like me, were one of the handful of people who have not yet seen House.
I was able to find the actual artist behind aunt Elizabeth’s strange canvases, though unfortunately, I can’t find any larger images. Richard Hescox has created a considerable amount of horror and monster movie poster art and seems to be fairly prolific, although his official portfolio seems to mostly showcase his fantasy-inspired works.
Now this all has got me thinking that I need to see House II on the off chance that there’s more of Hescox’s paintings and maybe old aunt Elizabeth gets a bit of story? Hm! Should I continue?