Friday, October 25, 2019

This House Possessed

This House Possessed
William Wiard

At the outset, broadcast TV movies are at a disadvantage because they have to obey FCC rules and regulations which can hamper the content and they have to have commercial breaks that can interrupt the flow of the story. So a good genre TV movie needs to operate as a series of vignettes with mini-cliffhangers leading up to each commercial break. A haunted house film works well in this structure as we often get the slow escalation of supernatural events which break and then start to escalate again. This House Possessed proves to utilize this structure well and ends up being a better than average entry.

This House Possessed is the story of Gary Straihorn (Parker Stevenson) a musician suffering from mental and physical exhaustion. He takes a liking to a nurse named Sheila Moore (Lisa Eilbacher) and takes her on as his private attendant. Together they move into a high tech mansion isolated from a small town. Once there, strange events begin to occur and houseguests begin to die. What is the secret of this house?

Welcome to PTV, all Parker Stevenson all the time.

This House Possessed throws out a couple of false leads in hopes of keeping the narrative alive, although things do sag in the middle, it largely succeeds. Throughout the early part of the film, we see a television and security monitors seemingly watching events occurring far away. Later we are shown that these screens exist in the house that Gary and Sheila move into. Is something watching them or is there a human hand behind the strange events? Also, there is something surprisingly eerie about a television showing someone’s personal life to no one in a dark room.

The second narrative trick the film uses is to switch up the central protagonist. At the start, this looks like it’s going to Gary's story, but slowly it is unveiled as Sheila’s, it is her history that is tied up with the house. The turn had the potential to really shake things up but the execution is muddled through some terrible exposition. The answers to several questions are dumped on us by local oddball Margaret (Joan Bennett), but it comes very late in the story and what she has to say isn't surprising in the least.

This house comes equipped with a Bathory 5000.
The real horror of This House Possessed are the musical numbers that Parker Stevenson sings, usually in an unbuttoned shirt. The songs are bad… really bad. They are the worst kind of vapid soft rock that might have passed muster in 1981 but they have not aged well and they drag the progress of the story down with them. The character of Gary is annoying and it is a welcome change when the story moves its focus to Sheila. Lisa Eilbacher is earnest and believable as someone who is thrown into a situation they can barely comprehend and need to find a way to escape.

This House Possessed is a decent TV horror film that offers some terrible music but some surprisingly good twists and even a chill or two.

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