Written by: Amanda Reyes, Special to CC2K
Amanda Reyes of our intrepid partner site, Pretty-Scary.net, visits to deliver the lowdown on a classic of made-for-TV horror.
Although the 70s was undeniably the decade of the made for TV horror film, the 80s produced a movie that I consider the best of the genre. I know, you’re waiting for me to say Dark Night of the Scarecrow, aren’t you? You are so predictable sometimes. I guess I should say, it’s my favorite made for TV film on a long list of great made for TV films. And the title is… drum roll please… This House Possessed. I can be really dramatic sometimes.
Picture it – February 26th, 1981 and the world is at the beginning of a decade that pop culture nerds may remember for pastel blazers, slasher films and Shanghai Surprise. I kid; we all did our best to forget Shanghai Surprise. Still, you do remember Don Johnson and Jason Voorhees, I presume. The 80s was decade that defied convention and attempted to break taboos. Horror films were a good commodity, but it was the violent horror films you banked on. Gore was God and it replaced a little thing we call suspense. I’m not complaining or anything, I’m just painting the picture, you see. How is a television film, which has to play by the censor’s strict rules, supposed to compete with loftier fare like Slaughter High? Well, it’s not, and instead it kept spinning the wheels of convention and tradition. That may seem boring or even just a little bit too safe, but when one understands the rules of how to unfold a good story, the rest is horror heaven. And that’s where this movie comes in.
This House Possessed tells the tale of one Gary Stralhorn (Parker Stevenson looking ridiculously yummy), famous pop singer extraordinaire who collapses during a performance of his hit song “Sensitive You’re Not,” which goes a little something like this:
Sensitive you’re not/
It’s a joke/
Sensitive, that’s hot/
You never once showed it to me
So we agree that lyrically speaking Gary has some obstacles to overcome, but he’s so dreamy, so who cares?! Anyway, he ends up in this hospital where a lovely nurse named Shelia (Lisa Eilbacher) works. They form an instant attraction and he whisks her away as his private nurse to parts unknown while he recovers. The duo end up in a small town and Gary buys an ultramodern house on the outskirts. The house comes equipped with surveillance cameras that are turned on and off by an unseen force as it watches the couple grow closer. Shelia, who can’t remember anything before the age of seven, slowly begins to uncover the secrets of the house and why it’s not ever going to let her go.
This House Possessed, like so many of these television films, has its campy moments – mostly brought to you by Tanya (Shelly Smith) the resident supermodel bitch who ends up taking a shower in blood. She Showers In Blood. Now there’s a title. Oh and it’s a totally creepy scene! Check out some stills here:
I saw This House Possessed on ABC the first night it aired. Granted, I tuned in because I had a super huge crush on Parker Stevenson (still do), but I kept coming back because it’s a great film.
Did I just say great? You bet your bottom dollar! Now I just said “you bet your bottom dollar!” So there. Fans of haunted house movies will be pleased with This House Possessed and the creepy set-pieces. It’s got women in long flowing nightgowns wandering the night, creepy rag dolls, ghostly voices, scary bag ladies, breathing mirrors and yeah, blood showers. I also think giallo* fans will enjoy the stylish photography and wild storyline. Plus, for a movie that follows the FCC code to the letter, there are some surprisingly brutal moments. See, it’s got something for everyone.
Side note/Fun fact from the Horror Chick: a giallo is an Italian horror film made in the 60s and 70s, which usually features surrealistic, dream-like imagery, bad dubbing, references to the demonic, serial killers, and girls in short dresses. See the films ofMario Bava, Lucio Fulci, or Dario Argento for future study.
Through the decades (can you believe it’s been almost 30 years since this film first aired?) This House Possessed has garnered quite a little cult reputation for itself, but like so many films in this sub-genre, it’s gotten the shaft and is hardly ever broadcast these days must less available on DVD (or video). Earlier this year it was announced that Image Entertainment would be releasing Dark Night of the Scarecrow in 2009 – There’s that title again! OK, it’s definitely #2 on my list of great 80s TV horror movies. Are you satisfied? With this upcoming release does it mean This House Possessed isn’t far behind? Not likely I suppose, but a girl can dream…