Spooky vintage made for TV movie kick continues here at the Cavalcade. We've looked at evil little creepy dudes that want to drag sexually repressed ladies into chimneys. We've delved into paranormal detective drama with Leonard Nimoy, and we've watched a teen monumentally suck at life and become a delusional peeper. Now, we must turn our attention to a THIS HOUSE POSSESSED (1981), a made for television spook fest involving a nurse with a amnesiac past, a rock star (subject to opinion), and a, you guessed it, a possessed house.
The made for TV terror is an interesting animal. You figure the director has a very limited time frame to establish said terror, get you involved with the characters, and somehow evoke some sort of emotion all in less than an hour and a half. William Wiard, the director of this particular flick, does an excellent job in the first moments of THP, and throughout, as we'll come to see.
In the opening shots, we see the giant titular house, a modern marvel as it were, and two teens trying to sneak in for a little makeout time. "It be great to play house here," hunky Donnie muses. "It's pretty nice out here - private, too," his lovely blond girlfriend in shiny hot shorts replies. Yeah, it's private as hell, unless you count the numerous video cameras mounted all over the place. Unable to get inside, the house that is ;P, the couple gets down and dirty in the grass beside the house. The house don't like this one bit and sends a sentient garden hose to spray scalding hot water on our amorous couple. With some great camera work and a wire you can *hardly* see, the hose douses the fornicators and sends them running.
Cut to hunky singer complete with feathered blond mop and black satin shirt unbuttoned to the belt, Gary Staihorn (a rock star name if there ever was one!), on stage in a nightclub. Damn, he sings a fine ass song, one that will be stuck in your head for days. Check it:
Sensitive, you're not.
It's a joke, your sensitivity!
Sensitivity, that's HOT!
You never once showed it to me!
Sing it, Gary! But mid-croon, Gary collapses, suffering from exhaustion, and no doubt, emotion, from having just sung such a powerful song. Gary winds up in the hospital and, at the urging of his manager, Arthur (the venerable Slim Pickens) and a doctor with the worst bedside manner ever ("I'm in in for the money, man!" he tells Arthur), Gary must take sabbatical and focus on his health, as well as his hit music. He hires his hot-in-Valerie-Bertinelli-in-the-early-80's-way nurse, Shelia, to accompany him on said sabbatical and upon being discharged from the hospital, the two take off in no particular direction.
Meanwhile, the house, remember that possessed one, has been watching Gary in the hospital because apparently its TV is somehow linked to the hospital's close circuit security cameras. No doubt a powerful entity (there were some earlier establishing shots of the house's interior, the furniture draped in sheets, the place just crying out to be occupied, accompanied by some great eerie music, almost resulting in a Gothic feel - it's great stuff), the house draws Gary and Shelia right to it. Impressed from the get go, Gary immediately purchases the house and the two move right in.
The house was apparently designed by an architect who didn't want to have to do any housework or have any intruders and the whole place is controlled by a nerve center within, complete with television monitors, a state of the art security system, and controls for all the lights, locks, and AC and heating systems. You can tell right away there's something amiss here, in that the real estate agent is quick to get rid of the place, or maybe she's just impressed with how hunky Gary is, hard to tell.
Gary and Shelia settle in and are immediately very comfortable with each other. It's actually hard to gauge their relationship at first. Is she just being a caring nurse or does she have more feelings for Gary than she's letting on? She apparently has a very guarded past, alluded to earlier by her boss at the hospital, as well as in a conversation with Gary about where she comes from. On the other hand, Gary is pretty irresistible, with those close set eyes and tight black jeans.
At one point, Gary tries to get it on with Shelia, but she's having none of it ("It's too soon!" the lady doth protest - three words I don't think I've ever uttered ;P) and the house apparently isn't having it either, in that as soon as Gary gets that rapey look in his beady eyes, the alarms start sounding and the lights start flickering. Non-plussed, Gary's all like, "well, that ruined the mood." Nothing to ruin a rapey mood like a house possessed.
But whatever, who needs Shelia? Gary's a fucking Rock Star with capital letters and before long, his beautiful on-again off-again model bitch girlfriend, Tonya, shows up. Here's where shit starts getting good. Shelia's more than a little jealous, Tonya orders her around like a maid, and insists she won't be needing any sheets or towels because she won't be sleeping in the guest room anyway, IYKWIM. Tonya swishes around, swills champagne, takes advantage of Gary's painkillers, and then decides to take a shower. Like Shelia, the house don't care much for bitchy Tonya and showers her with blood. Cliched, yes, but there are GALLONS of blood pouring out of this shower and the door won't open and the poor model gets so scared she takes off running, once the shower frees her of course. It's a beautiful scene, blood everywhere and Tonya screaming for her life - blood coming out of the shower spray never looked so damn good.
So things take a turn for the predictable, but not in a bad way, and there seems to be some local legends surrounding the house. Shelia finds this out via the town librarian, who decides to dig up some more dirt about the place and bring it over to Shelia in the middle of the night (after Shelia has finally given in to Gary's wiles, IYKWIM). Well, this, of course doesn't sit well with the house, and as the little bespectacled librarian is driving through the gate, the gate crushes her car, with her inside, complete with explosion, you know, to burn up all the damning evidence against it. I want a house that can make cars explode!
What's Shelia to do next but go to the local bag lady's house in search of answers? Not finding much, Shelia and Gary decide to get engaged (what happened to 'too soon!?!' - well, there's the TV time frame to consider) and decide to embark on a six week tour to Europe. You know Gary's probably really big in Germany. Gary calls up Slim to finalize the tour deal, and Slim, having taken a haunted mirror from the house to fix a crack in it, seeing his meal ticket back in the ball game, decides to have a celebratory scotch. The mirror having absorbed the vindictive personality of the house, kills Slim by breaking and firing glass all up in his face.
Let's recap. There's a been a shower full of blood, a librarian crushed by a gate, death by mirror, and coitus interruptus via security alarm, but only now do Gary and Shelia start to think something's not quite right. Oh, and I've forgotten to mention that the house keeps ethereally calling Shelia 'Margaret' and the bag lady I mentioned earlier also refers to Shelia by this name. So, it's no big surprise that Shelia's actually Margaret and the house was her ancestral home in the first years of her life which she has no recollection of whatsoever. I'm seriously not spoiling anything by telling you this, as it's pretty obvious.
I won't get into the particulars of the entire ending, but I will tell you the bag lady get boiled in the pool. And I will say I thoroughly enjoyed this little haunted house romp exponentially. It's got some great scenes, some awesome music, and I care more than a little a bit about what happens to Shelia. You know, in the beginning she's such a loner, she meets Gary, and he whisks her off to this amazing house. She's never really had a relationship before and now all of a sudden she's got a rocker boyfriend and a fabulous pad. Aside from the house being all sentient, she's basically got what I want. Although I don't think I would mind a self-aware house. As long as it cleaned the litter box for me, I wouldn't care if it boiled transients in the pool or blew up librarian's vehicles at the front gate.
This is good stuff and gets most everything right, even the cliched bits. The pacing might seem a little rushed, but that's likely just because of the TV time format. Everyone's believable and the house functions well as a character. And don't I remember a Simpson's Treehouse of Terror episode based on this?