House (1985 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteve Miner
Screenplay byEthan Wiley
Story byFred Dekker
Produced bySean S. Cunningham
CinematographyMac Ahlberg
Edited byMichael N. Knue
Music byHarry Manfredini
Distributed byNew World Pictures
Release date
  • December 6, 1985 (1985-12-06)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$22.1 million[2]

House is a 1985 American comedy horror film directed by Steve Miner, with a screenplay by Ethan Wiley, from an original story written by Fred Dekker. Produced by Sean S. Cunningham, the film is the first installment in the House film series, and stars William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, and Kay Lenz. The plot tells the story of a troubled author who lives in his deceased aunt's house and soon falls victim to the house being haunted. It collected $22.1 million worldwide, and was followed by three sequels.


Author Roger Cobb is a troubled man: he and his wife have separated, their only son Jimmy has disappeared without a trace, and his aunt has committed suicide by hanging. On top of everything else, he has been pressured by his publisher to write another book. To the chagrin of his fans and publisher, Roger plans a novel based on his experiences in the Vietnam War, instead of another horror story, as a way to purge himself of the horrors that he had experienced while there.

After his aunt's funeral, Roger decides to live inside her house to write instead of selling it, as recommended by the estate attorney. After moving in, Roger begins to have powerful graphic nightmares, including thoughts about his comrade, Big Ben, who died in Vietnam. In addition, strange phenomena spring forth from the house, haunting him in his waking hours. Roger begins to have flashbacks of Jimmy's disappearance, after spotting him getting pulled by something in the swimming pool. His aunt, prior to her death, claimed that the house itself took him. He tries communicating his fears to his next-door neighbor Harold Gorton who only thinks that Roger is crazy.

One night while investigating a noise coming from his late aunt's bedroom, Roger is attacked by a deformed monster inside the closet. Soon, more attacks occur: levitating garden tools attack him, his wife appears and transforms into a hideous hag-like creature to attack him (whom he believes he kills), and gremlin creatures attempt to kidnap a neighbor's child whom Roger is reluctantly babysitting. After Harold finally witnesses the phenomena, at which point he flees in fear, the author discovers an entry into a sinister dark dimension through the bathroom medicine cabinet and is pulled into the darkness, where he fortuitously locates his lost son Jimmy.

Roger manages to escape with Jimmy but is soon confronted by an undead Big Ben who wants revenge on him; Ben was taken prisoner and tortured before dying, and he blames Roger for failing to kill him before he could be captured by the enemy. Roger confronts Ben, no longer afraid of his fears, and destroys him with a grenade as he and his son escape the burning house. In the end, he triumphantly glances back at the house while regaining control of his life and reunites with his wife and child.



House began filming on April 22, 1985. The first two weeks of production comprised shooting exteriors at the estate known today as Mills View, a Victorian style home first built in 1887 and located on Melrose Avenue in Monrovia, California. At the time, the building was owned by two Los Angeles firemen, brothers Brian and John Wade.[3]

Production designer Gregg Fonseca[4] and a crew of five spent about four weeks modifying the existing Victorian manor that included repainting the whole of the exterior, bordering the front yard with a wrought iron fence supported by stone pillars, and attaching foam spires to the roof. The back of the house had its clapboard façade covered with brick, and landscapers were brought in to plant flowers and reseed the dying lawn. The yard had no sidewalk at the time, so a faux walkway - made from plywood painted gray to look like concrete, and positioned to lead straight to the front porch - was added as a finishing touch. This sidewalk was pivotal in the finished film. Some time after production, a true concrete walkway was then installed in the same spot, capturing the evil nature of the one in the film.[3]

The final six weeks of production moved operations to Ren-Mar Studios in Hollywood, where two floors of the interior of the Monrovia house were recreated on sound stages. This included sets for the living room, staircase, den and three upstairs bedrooms. On a separate adjacent set, the jungle exteriors for the Vietnam flash-back scenes were also built on sound stages, taking three days to put together.[3]

A total of seven monsters were designed and fabricated for the production. These creatures – which included the obese witch, the zombified corpse of Big Ben, three demonic kids, the flying skull-faced monster in the void, the plaque mounted marlin that comes to life and the war demon from the closet – were constructed by seventeen special effects artists, over a period of three-and-a-half months. The war demon, in particular, was an elaborately built puppet, measuring eighteen feet, fully mechanized, operated by fifteen people and featured a fully working lower bowel system.[3] In addition to puppetry and animatronics,[5][6] also stop-motion and actors in rubber suit was used to create the monsters.[7][8]


House was given a regional limited theatrical release in the United States on December 6, 1985.[9] Its release expanded to 1,440 theaters on February 28, 1986 and grossed $5.9 million in its first wide release weekend, missing first place to Pretty in Pink.[10] By the end of its run, House grossed $22.1 million worldwide, of which $19.4 million was from the North American box office.[2]


On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 57% based on reviews from 14 critics.[11]

Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote: "Scares are not its strong suit, but it has a trim, bright look and better performances than might be expected."[12] Variety wrote, "Though much of this nonsense is played tongue-in-cheek, an audience can hardly be expected to swallow the screenplay’s arbitrary approach to Cobb's character."[13] Ryan Pollard at Starburst wrote at the time of the Blu-ray release: "As a film, House is still as much of a warm, at times bonkers, family-friendly horror as it's ever been."[14] Alex Stewart of White Dwarf wrote that although the film has a good premise, it is "squandered on yet another tired old haunted house story" whose supernatural horrors can not compare to the real life trauma of war.[15]

In 1987, Richard Moll and Kay Lenz were both nominated for Saturn Awards. Director Steve Miner won a Critics' Award for his work on the film and was nominated for an International Fantasy Film Award.[citation needed]


The soundtrack for House was released on vinyl, cassette tape and CD in 1987. The soundtrack runs approximately 51:14 and has 25 songs that were featured in House and House II: The Second Story.[16]


House successfully launched a film series, with: House II: The Second Story in 1987, House III: The Horror Show in 1989, and House IV: The Repossession in 1992. Each film was met with mixed critical and financial reception.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "House".
  2. ^ a b "House (1986)". The Numbers. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d New World Pictures press kit - Production Notes, 1986
  4. ^ Sometimes referred as "Greg Fonseca".
  5. ^ House -
  6. ^ Review: House (1986) - The B-Movie Film Vault
  7. ^ The Haunted House on Film: An Historical Analysis
  8. ^ 'House' (1985) Review - ScreenAge Wasteland
  9. ^ "House". The Columbia Record. December 7, 1985. p. 10 – via
  10. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 28-March 2, 1986 - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  11. ^ "House (Ding Dong, You're Dead)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  12. ^ Maslin, Janet (February 28, 1986). "Film: Haunting with a Difference in 'House'". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "Review: 'House'". December 31, 1985. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  14. ^ Pollard, Ryan (December 10, 2017). "HOUSE (1986)". STARBURST Magazine.
  15. ^ Stewart, Alex (July 1986). "2020 Vision". White Dwarf (79). Games Workshop: 18.
  16. ^ "House- Soundtrack details -". Retrieved August 3, 2012.

External links[edit]