Review: The Horror Show aka House III
Directed by: James Isaac
For some reason, the studio felt the need to tag this as House III everywhere else other than the U.S., where it's simply known as The Horror Show. First of all, it has absolutely nothing to do with the two previous installments of the House franchise, but I suppose they were just trying to capitalize on the name since it did in fact make them money. But I can tell you I'm pretty sure that wasn't the initial intent when they went in to make this.
Most people will agree that this is almost a carbon copy of Wes Craven's Shocker, which came out the very same year. Both have to do with villains who are put to death by the electric chair and afterwards are transformed into an electrical entity where they are allowed to travel via electric currents to taunt and torment there victims. I remember being excited about the concept of Shocker and the fact that horror master Wes Craven was making it, but was somewhat let down by how mediocre it all was. Shocker made it to the theaters while The Horror Show went straight to VHS. In my personal opinion, I have to be honest and say this is the better of the two. It's not great by any means, but still a solid direct to video horror film.
Unlike Shocker, this film has two standout leads that really shine in the always great Lance Henriksen and Brion James, a great character actor who's been in everything from 48 Hours, The Fifth Element and Nemesis to Tango & Cash, Flesh & Blood and a ton of television work, but will mostly be remembered as the replicant in the beginning of Blade Runner who blows that guy away during an interview when asked about his mother. Here he's allowed to go all out and really delivers the goods as serial killer "Meat Cleaver Max" who's captured by Det. Lucas McCarthy (Henriksen) and sent to the electric chair in arguably the best sequence in the entire film. After getting fried the first time he simply says "All that did was give me a hard on", to which they fry him again and not being able to put him down, he busts out of his restraints as his skins melting off his body walking over to Det. McCarthy and tells him "I'm going to tear your world apart" before collapsing on the floor to his "apparent" death. Classic stuff with Brion James clearly having a blast with the role. McCarthy thinks it's all over until he starts having strange and horrific hallucinations, nightmares, electrical surges in the house, and scary phone calls. He thinks he's going crazy until he teams up with a science teacher who's convinced that Max has somehow transferred his soul from the living to the spirit world through electricity and now he's stronger than ever being able to pass from place to place through currents and even able to manifest himself into the physical world, though it's never explained how he was able to do that. They show he was practicing at home with a homemade electric chair before the big day, but they never explain how he was able to transfer his spirit or what kind of magic he used or anything like that. And the fact that he was able to manifest to the real world was really confusing. But whatever, it's a decent little horror film with a decent budget with a few standout effects shots and the power of Lance Henriksen and the late Brion James behind it. It reminded me a lot of Renny Harlin's excellent Prison (check out my review here) in terms of style and budget, just not as awesome.
In the end it did some credible work with it's modest budget and though not great, it had a bigger impact than Shocker ever did. I found the ending completely confusing (still not sure what it meant or what did and didn't really happen) and the pace a little slow, but these two leads are such a blast to watch. My biggest complaint, besides the nonsensical script, would be Brion James incredibly annoying laugh, which was supposed to invoke fear? I think? Even when he's not around you hear that annoying little laugh, kinda like the "ch ch ch ch, ha ha ha" of Friday the 13th. Buuuuut, it doesn't work. It just drives you nuts.