House 4: The Repossession (1992)
Directed by: Lewis Abernathy
Written by: Deirdre Higgins, Geof Miller, Jim Wynorski, R.J. Robertson
Starring: Denny Dillon, Scott Burkholder, Terri Treas, William Katt
AVAILABLE ON DUAL FORMAT BLU-RAY AND DVD: NOW, from ARROW VIDEO in the HOUSE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION BOXSET
RUNNING TIME: 94 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Roger Cobb is now married to Kelly, has a daughter, Laurel, and lives in the old Cobb family house that is located on a deserted and desolate shoreline. He promised his dad that he’ll never sell the house because his grandfather, who believed the house had magical properties, took a blood oath at his wedding never to let it be sold. Roger’s cynical step-brother Burke has been pestering him to sell it to some seedy Mafia real estate developers, but without any success. Then Roger is mortally injured in a car accident that leaves Laurel requiring a wheelchair and Kelly haunted by her decision to have Roger’s life support machine switched ofd, but Burke is unable to convince Kelly to sell the house. The grieving widow starts to hear strange noises and see inexplicable phenomena which nobody else can see….
House 4: The Repossession is far closer to House in tone than the second and third sequels, and what with William Katt’s character Roger Cobb returning brings this decidedly odd series virtually full circle. Unfortunately it’s a considerabky weaker effort than even House 3: The Horror Show, a pretty lame excuse for a haunted house movie that almost seems to forget it’s supposed to be a haunted house movie for some of the time – in fact you could write the ghost aspect out without that much effort. Going back to basics is fine but this film just lacks much in the way of entertainment value and is very low on both laughs and scares, making me actually yearn for the comparatively effective atmosphere of the third movie [at least it tried in places], while the story makes no sense whatsoever in places. The film isn’t totally boring, and actually isn’t totally terrible, but it just plods along not really doing very much, and certainly not succeeding in building up a full head of steam, nor providing much of a climax in its final act. It’s all very low key, and not in a good way either – instead it feels like the movie was just made and thrown out there because somebody decided that the already in trouble franchise needed a fourth instalment [or a third instalment if you don’t want to count House 3]. And once again, it seems like nobody could agree on exactly what type of film this one was intended to be.
Okay, so this film is a direct sequel to House – or so I thought. However when we meet Roger Cobb he now has a wife called Kelly rather than Sandy, and a daughter Laurel rather than a son. Now I can buy that he has a different wife as Sandy in the first movie wasn’t very nice, but a daughter? – unless his son no longer lives with him. And why does Roger not react badly when the Local Native American Who Knows All About The Spirit World mentions spooks, considering his previous encounters with them? Also, it can’t be the same house as before as it’s very different and n a very different location. Unless we’re now in an alternate universe if you consider the possibility that this one actually exists in the same world as the second mo….Doc, you just need to stop thinking about this as it’s making your brain hurt! It seems that they were able to get Katt for this movie and that was it, the filmmakers hoping that fans of the series would then accept whatever story the film would go on to tell. Now one thing I did like was that for once we don’t get an opening scare. Yes, they tend to get things off to a good start, but I enjoyed the different approach taken here, a more relaxed easing into the story, even if one of the films many problems is that for much of the time it feels too relaxed. And the house is an archetypal creepy abode with the requisite two level design, a basement, large rooms, and an odd looking face when viewed front on. Anyway, after an argument with evil step-brother Burke who wants him to sell, Roger is visited by Ezra the Native America who performs some kind of ceremony down in the basement. “There may be memories of the past still speaking in this house” he says. He does his bit and claims “the spirits will rest now” but of course you know that he’s going to be proved wrong and you may feel like laughing out loud!
A fatal car crash leaves mother and daughter without a father, and mother beginning to hear thumping noises, see gross brown liquid and blood [the series gets its second shower scene and this one has both boobs and blood], and – in probably the scene you will remember for ages when the rest of the film has been forgotten about – see a pizza come to life with a singing face which then tries to pull her into the kitchen sink when she tries to get rid of it. “I don’t really hate anchovies that much” says Laurel, who of course doesn’t see the demonic pizza. However, this is really the only time that horror and humour work together well in the movie [unless you count a rottweiler with a lampshade on its head]. And it’s not as if the film is ever scary or makes you jump except for a rather good ‘hand out of the ground’ Carrie-style bit and a Nightmare On Elm Street bed swallowing gag. Nor is it as if the supposed comedy works that well elsewhere, though the villainous little person Mr Grosso is undountedly quite a memorable creation, a person whose exposure to chemical effluents has so filled his lungs with thick phlegm that he has a special machine to extract it, the contents of which he occasionally forces people to drink as a method of ensuring their loyalty. Just before we meet him though is a moment of such incredible dumbness that I wondered if I was seeing things. We see workers filling barrels of some kind of toxic substance, and on some of these barrels we see the typical “Warning Toxic ” tag, over which they’ve printed a label saying “Non” over the “Warning” and slashed the skull. Huh?
We eventually learn that the house was once built on a “sacred spring, a shelter for spirits” to protect it from the White Man and Progress. However, the villain’s plan makes no sense, and some of the actions of the ghosts in the first half don’t make any sense either considering what is later revealed in the story. Sometimes the film pretends to be a serious look at grieving, and Terri Treas plays these scenes quite well, but we’re never given a real chance to feel much because after a couple of minutes she’s required to suddenly see something strange or the goofy bad guys have to show up, and this subplot’s final scenes just go through the motions and don’t provide the emotion that they should do. The film just doesn’t hang together, and though you could say this about the first and second House film and maybe even the third one, at least it seemed that the filmmakers were having some fun and tried to bring what they could to the table even if they were either in conflict or undecided on where the films were going. Here, it seems that they just didn’t really care at all, and this goes for Katt who doesn’t try very hard at all despite the obvious desire to get him to appear as often as possible.
At least Scott Burkholder is convincingly evil as Burke and the film often goes up a notch when he’s onscreen. Denny Dillon as Verna Klump the house keeper also makes the most of her few scenes, and 18 year old Melissa Clayyon does well as the 12 year old Laurel, bringing to the part a touch of deadpan comedy. Director Lewis Abernathy occasionally shows a flair for the brief shock but in general keeps the film on the level of a very mediocre TV-movie, though James Mathers does give us some good cinematography in a few places like the bright mixture of red, green and blue in the factory, and Harry Manfredini provides some good lyrical melancholy to go along with the usual stuff. Overall though there really isn’t that much to recommend House 4, and I’m glad that they didn’t make any more films in this series [though the word ‘series’ to describe it is possibly misleading]. While there is the occasional good moment in amidst the dross, and a few good performances, House 4 is film which doesn’t really succeed in what it sets out to do and I would imagine only the most undemanding of horror fans would find that it’s of much replay value. Well, except for the pizza. I’ve already looked at the scene three times!
House 4 looks quite sharp and detailed on Blu-ray, and again Arrow have added to the special features they were able to port over, though understandably there’s less stuff on this movie. The commentary with Abernathy and Blue Underground’s David Gregory is actually rather good and Abernathy doesn’t always need any prompting to talk about the film, though he seems like he wants to say that it’s rubbish throughout. He actually walked out of the first screening! Though he doesn’t go into details, he mentions that “heated arguments” and “quite a few loud conversations” went on concerning the script which was rewritten several times, once by Abernathy himself [just how bad was it originally?]. He relates a few good stories [apparently this got a theatrical release in Italy and was number one there for a week!], talks about the actors, and constantly keeps a sense of humour about the whole thing which is probably just as well. The highpoint has Abernathy ring James Cameron who says that the phlegm scene is the most disgusting scene he’s ever seen! Abernathy is back on the half hour making of documentary where everyone seems to be on the verge of laughing because they’re having to talk about this movie, but talk about it they do. Just underneath the model pizza face was Kane Hodder! On both the commentary and the documentary we’re told that what was originally intended to be a standalone film was linked to the series when Katt was cast, which was news to me.
None of the House films are classics, and the third and fourth films are several notches down from the first two, but those first two did make me constantly smile and the third is reasonably enjoyable really. There’s something appealingly random about this odd, disjointed franchise, even if I don’t think its creators ever worked out exactly where they were trying to go with it!
HOUSE IV: THE REPOSSESSION
*Audio commentary with director Lewis Abernathy
*Home Deadly Home: The Making of House IV– brand new documentary featuring interviews with director Lewis Abernathy, producer Sean S. Cunningham, stars Terri Treas and William Katt, actor/stunt coordinator Kane Hodder, and composer Harry Manfredini
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:
*Brand new 2K restorations of all four films
*High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
*Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
*The House Companion – limited edition 156-page book featuring new writing on the entire House franchise by researcher Simon Barber, alongside a wealth of archive material