There's a lot to say about this movie that is not the greatest thing ever or especially unflawed. First, it's weird that not a lot of horror films deal directly with war, especially the Vietnam War, which was the first instance of the full panoply of war being broadcast to the homeland. There's DEATHDREAM and it's great, but there's also HOUSE, whose protagonist is a horror fiction writer settling in to his dead aunt's house to work on an autobiographical book about 'Nam. This is an extremely eighties film and parts of it are eighties in that way that you'd expect, like lol at the Betamax players and gaudy clothes. But other parts remind you that the eighties were the hangover of the violence and turmoil of the sick seventies and that the absurdity of the decade of He-Man was maybe smothering some lingering bad memories.
If you think that is a good thesis, then HOUSE might be The eighties horror movie, because it's upsetting and goofy in pretty equal amounts. Writer Roger (William Katt) moves into the house to write a book about Vietnam after also having his small son disappear in a swimming pool. So you'd think, wow, this sounds like pretty srs dark territory. No way that the movie will pull a lot of slapstick and kidding around on me now. BZZZZT.
The comedy is this is like 95% of all comedy in ostensibly-horror movies: not funny. Not only that, but watching Roger do pratfalls down the staircase in his army duds is a big distraction from the tension-building that HOUSE does pretty well! The monster movie parts of this monster movie are pretty spiffy. The effects are good for what they are, I dig the cast (Katt, a mean Richard Moll, swimsuited dish Mary Stavin), and HOUSE correctly taps the mind-bending/psychedelic approach to haunted houses that yields best results.
Parts of this feel like a less successful EVIL DEAD II: comedy folded in less naturally, demons with personality, winged demon effects, shotguns, actiony stuff. What sets it apart are the times when it gets the whole messed-up vet/regret/guilt thing right and the times when it refuses to explain itself. Just make it dark and weird, okay?
I wouldn't mind seeing a remake of this. Scoop out the comedy and focus the writing a bit more (it's kinda episodic and all over the place), give George Wendt's lonely-neighbor character more of a character, and I think you could have something special. As it stands, HOUSE is worth seeing, but don't expect some neglected classic. This is very much in line with lots of other eighties horror fare.
Followed by a sequel, HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY (lawl), which I don't think I ever saw, but the graphic novel of which I purchased on a vacation to Florida during which I was circled by a shark at the beach, almost fell into the killer whale tank at Sea World, and nearly disappeared in a swimming pool, much like the child in HOUSE. It all comes full circle. Also, fuck Florida. Also, this is a great Mary Stavin pic.