Friday, August 24, 2012

This House Possessed (1981)



"After having a nervous breakdown, a rock singer has to spend some time in hospital. A private nurse is hired, and with her he buys a new house, a fantastic house in the country. The nurse, Sheila, can't remember the first years of her life, but this house seems strangely familiar to her."

I really have to stop watching crappy made-for-TV horror movies early in the morning when I'm overtired and my brain is already mush because I somehow managed to dumb myself down enough to quite enjoy this one.

Even though I could recognise that it was horribly dated, "Hardy Boy" Parker Stevenson sang some terrible songs, and seeing the once ridiculously beautiful Joan Bennett as a crazy old cat-lady was quite upsetting, the story itself actually entertained me in more good ways than I want to admit to myself.

I've always loved the American made-for-TV movies from the '70s which were pretty much a staple of late night television in England when I was growing-up (not that I've ever truly become an adult in my own mind), and, just because this was a couple of years beyond their heyday, it was still up to the same standard.

"This House Possessed" wasn't in any way scary and. of course, the effects such as a bulging, exploding mirror (which was also used again on a brick wall) were really cheap looking and laughable compared to even the most generic offerings from the same year, but, I managed to get quite engrossed in it all and found the characters interesting. I even enjoyed everyone's favourite cowboy, Slim Pickens, as a kindly, father-figure/pop manager since it wasn't his usual type of role.


Parker Stevenson didn't come across as a very credible musician other than, surprisingly, really being able to sing. The songs weren't good and I couldn't imagine anybody getting rich enough from them to buy a pot noodle let alone a house, but such is life in the movies. Call me cynical and bitter, but I think the same about most modern pop stars anyway so my opinion of the music is probably invalid.

In spite of Parker Stephenson's character, Gary Straihorn, being a little bit inconsistent and not quite so nice sometimes as the "goody two shoes" image which he was supposed to personify, I can't blame his acting, and think it just wasn't a very well written part. To coin a phrase which I learned last night, he came across as a little bit "rapey" on at least two occasions.

The object of both Gary Straiborn's and the possessed house's affections was an attractive nurse, Sheila Moore, as played by Lisa Eilbacher. She was also inconsistent and didn't seem very nurse-like, but, to be fair, this was hardly the most realistic of movies anyway.

For some reason, I think I'm supposed to know who Lisa Eilbacher was. I know she was in a few episodes of "The Hardy Boys" (shared agents or studio contracts presumably being how she ended up in this alongside Parker Stevenson) but I swear I don't remember her from "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982) which the IMDb gives as her main claim to fame. She was so very pretty that I completely forgot about how Joan Bennett had aged since "Scarlet Street" (1945) and "The Woman in the Window" (1944). It's hard to believe that Lisa Eilbacher is 56 years old now. Such thoughts make me feel very sad sometimes.


As far as the story to "This House Possessed" went, it was actually a pretty basic demon-possessed or computer-controlled house set-up which was. of course. done better in more well-known theatrical movies. Some of it was very formulaic, but it wasn't quite as predictable as I thought it was going to be.

The director, William Wiard, worked on so many classic TV series that I'm not going to make myself look foolish by blaming him or any of the actors involved for the inadequacies of the script. There were a lot of things to pick holes in, and I've already covered most of them, but by far the worst was not really ever getting an explanation for why or how the house had a life of its own and was so obsessed with Sheila. I suppose I could make up my own backstory if I had the patience as there were a few clues.

Maybe in my weakened state of exhaustion, I finally discovered the true meaning of the "so bad, it's good" expression when deciding on a final rating for "This House Possessed". I'd prefer to think that the few moments of brilliance and my nostalgia for movies of this kind had more to do with my appreciation of it though.

"This House Possessed" was below average for a made-for-TV movie and, ordinarily, you know that I would cast something like this into "The Dungeon". It had a little bit more charm than the other rubbish in there though so I'm giving it a few more points for that.

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