Saturday, June 04, 2016

House III: The Horror Show (1989)

 James Isaac


Allyn Warner
Leslie Bohem


Lance Henriksen
Brion James
Rita Taggart
Dedee Pfeiffer
Aron Eisenberg
Thom Bray
David Oliver
Lewis Arquette


Lucas McCarthy is a respected detective and family man. When he finally apprehends the serial killer known as 'Meat Cleaver Max', he believes that it's case closed on that chapter of his life. Attending Meat Cleaver Max's electric chair execution, nothing goes to plan as had hoped. Max ends up surviving not one but two rounds with old sparky. In his final words before finally succumbing to his injuries, he vows to make the rest of Detective Lucas's life a living hell. Now able to travel through electricity, Max is on the hunt for anyone who is a loved one of Detective Lucas McCarthy. 

I'm going to begin my House III: The Horror Show review with several facts that I've learned about this extremely troubled production. I'm hoping that by divulging these facts for you, it will highlight some of my future grievances that I had with the movie. So let's begin with the first fact being the original director David Blyth was fired from the movie for unspecified reasons. James Isaac of Jason X notoriety was brought in to take the reins and finish off The Horror Show. This was his first film production, and it does show. This could also come down to budget constraints and what he eventually had to try and salvage.

This is where alarm bells began to ring. The second fact is that Writer Allyn Warner wanted his name removed from the final film. He did what most other people in the industry do and slapped the Alan Smithee name on this picture. For those who don't know, Alan Smithee is the name people put on a movie when they want to disown the movie and have no part in the final film. Was this the last bad omen that The Horror Show would be struck down with? Nope, you didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you? This was just the beginning.

The original cut of The Horror Show was apparently so violent that it was slapped with an X rating. The studio was brought in and tried to save the film and ended up heavily editing the film's gory content. Not only did they cut, hack, and chop, they ended up removing entire scenes from the finished film to get the film it's R rating. In the final cut, this is extremely noticeable. A lot of the death scenes are edited right before the gory money shot, and the next cut is a different angle or random dialogue. These cuts really affect how the jump scares, and the suspense of the movie plays out. Terrible editing is one of the film's biggest flaws.

Another big issue with House III: The Horror Show is that franchise producer Sean S. Cunningham basically slapped this film with the House title when it was never actually intended to be a part of the series. This explains why it has no relevant connection to the original or its dreadful sequel. This movie is its own beast that just so happened to be lumped in with the House franchise in the hope of a quick buck. House IV was apparently the actual third film that was meant to happen, but because this had the name slapped on it in certain markets, they had to call the real House III, House IV instead. Confusing, I know.

I stated in the above paragraph that this film has no relevant connection to either House or House II: The Second Story. This is correct. However, the only moments within House III: The Horror Show that I could see being tied to the first or second film is the dining room scene with the turkey coming alive and testing Lucas's sanity. This gag is the one scene in the entire film where I feel if anyone were to challenge my criticism of House III and state that the movies are connected, it would be the dining room scene for sheer weirdness and creature effects.

It must also be noted in my review that House III: The Horror Show is very similar to another movie that was released that same year. Wes Craven's Shocker is the film to be exact. Both movies are about a serial killer who is executed by way of an electric chair and begin to wreak havoc on his victims by travelling through electricity. I much prefer Shocker as it's a guilty pleasure of mine and Wes Craven hams it up with the violence. This is Shockers dark and meaner cousin.

What House III: The Horror Show does right is that it steers the franchise back into Horror territory. While the original is more in line with a Horror Comedy, it still had elements of Horror which the sequel was completely devoid of. The Horror Show is a balls to the wall, straight up horror movie. This film doesn't fuck around with a ton of comedic gags. This is one depressing and dark film. I actually found the finished film rather cold and emotionless. This movie hits you in the chest with a meat cleaver and tries to scare you. It isn't very successful in delivering on those jump scares but it gets the point for trying.

The biggest standout (and take that compliment with a grain of salt) is the acting. I'm a big fan of actor Lance Henriksen. He's a master when it comes to horror, thriller and sci-fi films. Here he plays a detective on the verge of a breakdown, and he gives it his all even if the rest of the movie is of lower quality. He plays everything as serious as possible, and he does a decent job. Brion James as Meat Cleaver Max chews scenery here and is extremely evil. A nasty little character that he has created. I also enjoyed seeing Lewis Arquette in a guest appearance in this movie. Always great to see the patriarch of the Arquette's starring in a film.



- Body parts are deep fried.
- A meat cleaver is smashed into someone's head and chest.
- A talking severed head.
- A decapitation.
- A rotting corpse hung from a noose.
- A baby is slammed against the floor.
- Someone is repeatedly shot.
- A bloodstained kitchen.
- The rape of a teen girl. (Gives birth to a mutated baby).

Where House II: The Second Story lacked any violence, blood or gore. House III: The Horror Show dished it out whenever it was possible. While a lot of the violent scenes were cut down to give the film an R rating. House III manages to still be the darkest and most violent entry in the series.

House III: The Horror Show would likely be considered the black sheep of the House franchise. It has no noticeable connection to the original, or it's sequel and is forever looked down upon at family gatherings. I could also argue and state the same thing about House II: The Second Story, but I'm going to assume the sequel was the birth defect that they keep locked away in the basement. House III is dark, violent and has some seriously messed up themes. It's still, however, a far cry from the brilliance and timeless fun of the original.


  1. Did they ever release the uncut version of House 3?

  2. I did a little research and believe that the European market had a few of the gorier moments left in the final cut but the complete uncut version never saw the light of day. Hope that helps.

  3. I wasnt even born when the movie was released, no wonder i havent heard about it! The storyline is nice but i think i will prefer to read the book over watching the movie.