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Is House III: The Horror Show a Show-Stopper?

Feature Presentations: Episode 52

Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Arrow Video‘s release of House III: The Horror Show.

The Blu-ray cover of House III

As a disclaimer, the Arrow Video version of House III: The Horror Show is only available on the out-of-print United Kingdom box set. And while the box set is for Europe, the discs are all region and should work on U.S. players.

If you’ve read my columns on House and House II: The Second Story, you can probably gauge that I have mixed feelings about the House franchise up to this point. The original is a childhood favorite, while the second film swung the pendulum over to the goofy and family-friendly side. So, it’s only natural for a franchise as wacky as this that the third entry would overcorrect and swing into the over-the-top, R-rated slasher side.

Taking a note, or maybe the other way around, House III: The Horror Show emulates motives in the vein of Wes Craven’s Shocker. Lance Henriksen plays Detective Lewis McCarthy on the hunt for serial killer “Meat Cleaver Max” Jenke, played by the underrated Brion James. After Max’s capture and death via electrocution, McCarthy and his family find spiritual hauntings within their residence.

While House III: The Horror Show plays closer to my sensibilities, it doesn’t work as well as I would hope. Whereas Shocker embraces the lunacy with the film’s premise and goes balls-to-the-wall, House III isn’t as crazy as I wanted it to be. Where the film lacks in story, those looking for gore should be pleasantly surprised. I assume that those behind the film overcompensated in one area where the rest of the move was lacking.

Even if House III lacks in most areas, the behind-the-scenes production is the most interesting of the franchise. Arrow Video understands this and gave House III: The Horror Show the most love and care of all discs within this set.

As with the first two films, Sean S. Cunningham headlines an audio commentary with producer/filmmaker Michael Felsher. Felsher does well at supplying Cunningham with inquiries about all aspects of the film’s production. Cunningham details the film’s production problems, director Jim Isaac coming in to replace the film’s original director, and his thoughts and opinions on the MPAA. Even if Cunningham falls into silence or narrating the action onscreen, Felsher always reels Cunningham back on track. Cunningham works best when he has someone knowledgeable and ready with questions, and Felsher is just the person for the job.

McCarthy with his gun drawn in a room with blood on the walls.

The first interview on the disc, “The Show Must Go On,” is a discussion with Kane Hodder. Anyone who has seen or heard Kane Hodder speak knows that he commands an interview without force. For ten minutes, “The Show Must Go On” has Hodder reminiscing about his time on set. He speaks highly about the production, discusses his stunts—one about a fall gone wrong, and suffering the worst ankle sprain of his career. While short, this interview comes packed with plenty of information, and, above all, it’s just a pleasure hearing Kane Hodder.

“House Mother,” the second interview, is a chat with actress Rita Taggart. “House Mother” is another ten-minute sit-down as Taggart discusses her work, time on the set, and other asides. Taggart touches upon her enjoyment with the original director of House III: The Horror Show, David Blyth, working close to Lance Henriksen and what studio smoke gives actors. It’s an interesting anecdote, and Taggart recalls the time filming House III: The Horror Show as a positive experience.

“Slaughter, Inc.” is a featurette with KNB Effects artists Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger. Now, this is a feature! Kurtzman, Nicotero, and Berger discuss their beginning before House III before diving into how they created the film’s many gore gags. As mentioned earlier, the film leans hard into gore, and it’s welcome to hear the workers behind these nasty effects get their moment to talk about their finished products. Each set piece is discussed in-depth and offset with behind-the-scenes footage of the team getting the makeup moments in order. “Slaughter, Inc.” is an excellent feature.

Arrow Video also included a compilation of on-set footage throughout the film’s shoot. This fly-on-the-wall feature is a VHS quality compilation showcasing multiple scene setups and film takes. Something like this feature is what is sorely lacking in other physical media releases. There’s no fluff or false narrative, just raw footage without agenda. Through this VHS feature, we are transported back to 1989 and see what the set of House III: The Horror Show is. We get to see multiple setups with the makeup department, the actors rehearsing with each other, and different takes during various scenes. The behind-the-scenes look won’t be for everyone, as it shows how tedious and boring a movie set can be, but if something like this interests you, as it does me, then this should be right up your alley!

Arrow Video also included a feature called “workprint trims.” And trims they are! This feature is a small sampling of slight moments from the original workprint. There’s not a lot here worth discussing, but anytime media from a film’s workprint are provided, it’s appreciated, as that is rare to find on a physical media release.

Going back to why House III: The Horror Show gets the most love from Arrow Video, both versions of the film come within this release: the uncut European release and the R-rated U.S. theatrical version. And while the uncut version won’t change anyone’s opinion on House III, having the uncut gore footage restored in high definition is a welcome inclusion.

Rounding out the disc, Arrow Video includes the film’s theatrical trailer under the United States title, The Horror Show. If I were to nitpick, this is the one entry that doesn’t come with a documentary about the film’s production. As the film sounded troubled from the get-go, it’s understandable no one wanted to dredge up old memories, but it’s the one glaring feature missing from an otherwise stellar disc.

Max, smiling while wearing a blonde wig.

And there you have it! House III: The Horror Show fits solidly into the House canon franchise—in that it has nothing to do with the previous entries and swings the genre pendulum from the House II: The Second Story‘s comedy theme to the horror side. This franchise is nuts. Thankfully, Arrow Video did this underseen slasher justice with a disc packed to the gills with plenty of features and is a killer release for somewhat-forgotten “slashic.”

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a struggling screenwriter who enjoys music, writing, and all forms of cinema. His musical tastes span a wide array, but mainly within the hip-hop genre. He considers Ghostbusters the best film of all time and has a weird obsession with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    • For me, the original works the best, but I appreciated how III went straight 80s horror and was unashamed in its gratuitousness.

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