Top-notch effects by KNB, stellar acting from Lance Henriksen, and a great villain in Brion James make up for a banal plot.
The serial killer Meat Cleaver Max won’t let something as trivial as being executed stop him from coming after the family of the cop who put him in the chair. It’s a slash and stab Lazarus story with all the gore you can handle. Let’s dig into 1989’s “The Horror Show”, directed by James Isaac!
As I See It
I love the title. I love the original cover art with the severed hand with protruding bone looming over the Bates house. It makes no sense with the film but I love it.
This film was produced by the director of the original Friday the 13th, Sean S. Cunningham, who also produced the House (1985), the Fred Dekker-penned film (the man behind Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps). Interestingly, The Horror Show was originally titled House III. It has nothing to do with the original film, though it is considered the third film in the series. All three of those Cunningham-produced films do share composers: the legendary Harry Manfredini.
Though this may not be a very original story, the effects from KNB are unmatched.
From Brion James prosthetics while being electrified to death to the kitchen filled with severed goodies, there is a reason they are the best to ever do it. The NOES or Cronenberg moment when the lunch turkey comes to life with the face of Jenke (Brion James).
Don’t forget… “Never sneak up on a man while he’s blasting Metallica!” Especially if it’s pre-black album.
Lance Henriksen should be familiar to all genre fans if for nothing else than being the star in the monster movie with the most heart, Pumpkinhead. He has a long career of great films and performances including the surreptitiously artificial Bishop in the Alien series, Spielberg’s Close Encounters, Jim Cameron’s Piranha II, Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff… the list goes on and on.
The late Brion James always played a great villain. You may recognize him from The Fifth Element or as Kowalski in Blade Runner.
Thom Bray (Professor Peter Campbell) looks like a composite of Justin Long and Jeffrey Combs in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, but you may recognize him from John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness (my personal favorite Carpenter film) or his voice from the often forgotten animated series based on the schlock film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!.
Of Gratuitous Nature
Can you imagine your mom calling you in for lunch and there is an entire thanksgiving worthy meal, basted turkey and all? Apparently, 1989 was a very auspicious year.
Lance Henriksen is the best. He’s also shredded in this film. The dude can act and brings a level of seriousness that is unmatched.
Ripe for a Remake
There were enough of these in 1989 alone. Wes Craven’s Shocker for one.
Billed as House III outside the US, it makes no sense within the series. The first House is one of those early films that I watched as a single-digit human that still haunts me to this day. I vividly recall going into the attic of my house to get some old GI Joe figures only to find big black garbage bags that I could only surmise were filled with monsters with painted fingernails.
I see no connection with this installment, but it was followed by House IV which went straight to video but brought back Roger Cobb and the titular house.
Where to Watch
Way back in 2013, Shout Factory released a Blu-Ray with commentary from Producer Sean S. Cunningham, but it is long sold out and since out of print. You can track one down on the secondary market or stream on Tubi.