House was one of several effects-driven haunted house tales that jumped on the tail end of the Steven Spielberg produced hit ghost story Poltergeist (1982). It feels exactly like a conceptual collision where Sean S. Cunningham is throwing together Poltergeist or perhaps even more closely Stanley Kubricks The Shining (1980) with the topical interest that emerged in the Vietnam War after the same years big awards winner of Oliver Stones Platoon (1986). It is a mildly enjoyable, if silly, effort. The film is at its most amusing when Steve Miner plays the standard Is it real or is he going mad? games for deadpan amusement like the scene where the monster refuses to stay dead while William Katt is trying to chat up a curvaceous bimbo, or when the cops come to visit as Katt is trying to deal with monsters.
However, reason is quickly sacrificed for one-shot gags like the moment when William Katt turns from the tv set with a remote to similarly blank out his sons ghost in a haze of static, which is a scene that has clearly been inserted for the purpose of a quick laugh but contradicts the rules the film establishes elsewhere. The connecting logic behind the story is shaky it is never clear whether the house is haunted or it is Ben using it for purposes of revenge. The monsters look like cheap carnival masks and the scenes where a mounted fish and various garden tools come to life are extremely silly. The various cast members seem to be struggling to take proceedings seriously.
The film inspired three sequels but these are of loose to the point of non-existent connection. House II: The Second Story (1987) is not related in any way beyond the sharing of some of the crew Cunningham as producer, Ethan Wiley as director and another star recruited from tvs Cheers (1982-93) although is a slightly better film. House IV (1991) is however a direct sequel and features a return performance from William Katt. Interestingly, there is no House III in the USA however, the Cunningham-produced The Horror Show (1989) about an executed killer returned from the dead was retitled House 3: Youre Better Off on Elm Street internationally.
Director Steve Miner began working as a production assistant for Wes Craven on The Last House on the Left (1972) and then went onto produce Sean S. Cunninghams Friday the 13th. He made his directorial debut with Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) and went onto helm the genre likes of Friday the 13th Part III in 3D (1982); his one standout, Warlock (1989); the Mel Gibson cryogenic sleeper awakes romance Forever Young (1992); Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998), Lake Placid (1999) and the remake of Day of the Dead (2008). Screenwriter Fred Dekker later went on to become a director with the genre homages Night of the Creeps (1986) and The Monster Squad (1987), and then Robocop 3 (1993). Dekker has also written the James Bond spoof If Looks Could Kill/Teen Agent (1991) and Russell Mulcahys revenge drama Ricochet (1991) and served as a consulting producer on Enterprise (2001-5). Ethan Wiley went onto direct the horror films House II, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998), Blackwater Valley Exorcism (2006), Brutal (2007), Elf Man (2012) and Journey to the Forbidden Valley (2017). He has also produced the likes of A Dead Calling (2006), Drifter (2007), Deadwater (2008), Bear (2010) and The Butterfly Room (2012).