The Horror Show

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The Horror Show
The Horror Show poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced bySean S. Cunningham
Written by
Music byHarry Manfredini[1]
CinematographyMac Ahlberg[1]
Edited byEdward Anton[1]
Sean S. Cunningham Films
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • April 28, 1989 (1989-04-28)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States[1]
Box office$1,738,897[2]

The Horror Show (also known as House III: The Horror Show) is a 1989 American slasher film starring Lance Henriksen and Brion James, produced by Sean S. Cunningham and directed by James Isaac.


Detective Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen) finally catches serial killer Max "Meat Cleaver Max" Jenke (Brion James) and watches his execution. McCarthy is shocked to see the electric chair physically burn Max before he finally dies promising revenge. Max has made a deal with the devil to frame Lucas for his murders from beyond the grave. Max scares the McCarthy family (who have moved into a new house) and parapsychologist Peter Campbell (Thom Bray), they hired. Campbell tells Lucas that the only hope of stopping Max for good is to destroy his spirit.

As the family move in, Donna (Rita Taggart) searches the basement to find their missing cat Gazmo. The furnace turns on and the door flings open; apparently Max's spirit is inside the house and focused on the basement. Lucas starts having hallucinations that lead him to behave erratically. Bonnie (Dedee Pfeiffer) goes to the cellar to secretly meet her boyfriend Vinnie, who is later killed by a physical manifestation of Max with a cleaver. The next night, Bonnie tells Scott (Aron Eisenberg) to come with her to look for Vinnie, while Lucas goes to the basement and angrily calls for Max to stay away from his family. Bonnie returns to the basement and finds Vinnie's body for which Lucas is suspected of the murder.

Max kills Scott with the meat cleaver, transforms into Bonnie and decapitates Campbell before holding Donna hostage. Lucas escapes from questioning and goes into the cellar to fight Max. Lucas sends Max to the electric machine where his arm gets stuck, Lucas and Donna use the chair to shock Max causing him to appear back in physical form in the house where Lucas shoots him dead.

The next day the McCarthy’s are moving out with Scott still alive. Bonnie goes into the basement and runs outside to find Gazmo in a box. The family takes a photo as the screen freezes and fades to black.



Director David Blyth was replaced by James Isaac a week into shooting.[3] Allyn Warner is credited as writer for the film as Alan Smithee.[3]

The Horror Show was originally intended as an entry into the House series of films, but was marketed as unrelated, as the producers felt it was too intense compared to the more comedic earlier installments, House and House II: The Second Story.[3]


The Horror Show was released in the United States on April 28, 1989.[4] It has been released as House III in Europe.[5] The Horror Show was distributed as House 3: The Horror Show on home video by Braveworld in the United Kingdom in October 1989.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Critical reception for The Horror Show was overwhelmingly negative. On Rotten Tomatoes and the film holds a rating of 0% , based on 8 reviews.[7]

Critic Roger Ebert gave the film one out of four stars.[8] Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote, "The Horror Show builds up a good head of suspense, then squanders it in mechanical, poorly staged splatter."[9] AllMovie's reviewer stated, "this film consists of long periods of tedium punctuated by outbursts of graphic gore and surreal effects,"[4] while John Kenneth Muir opined that it was "one of those horror movies where the missed potential just cannot escape notice," and that it was also too similar to Wes Craven's Shocker, which was released later that same year.[10]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Stine, Scott Aaron (2003). The Gorehound's Guide to Splatter Films of the 1980s. McFarland. ISBN 0786415320.


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Horror Show". AllMovie. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  2. ^ Matteo Tortora (2019). 80's The Gold Decade Of The Horror Movie. ISBN 978-1693297076.
  3. ^ a b c Stine 2003, p. 152.
  4. ^ a b Binion, Cavett. "The Horror Show (1989) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  5. ^ Maçek III, J.C. (April 26, 2014). "Books of the Dead: The Followers and Clones of 'The Evil Dead'". PopMatters.
  6. ^ Hayward, Anthony (1990). "Video Releases". Film Review 1990-1. Columbus Books Limited. p. 144. ISBN 0-86369-374-1.
  7. ^ "The Horror Show (House 3)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 28, 1989). "Horror". Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  9. ^ Holden, Stephen (April 29, 1989). "The Horror Show". The New York Times. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  10. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2012). Horror Films of the 1980s. McFarland. pp. 741–742. ISBN 978-0786472987. Retrieved November 2, 2014.

External links[edit]