The 1980s Essential Haunted House Horror Comedy Every Generation Must Discover, Stream Without Netflix

By Robert Scucci | Updated

house movie

Haunted house movies are a dime a dozen these days, but 1985’s House is one that’s worth your time because of its sense of humor and pacing. House is such an effective horror comedy movie because it finds a healthy middle ground between the two genres, has crazy looking monsters that aren’t necessarily frightening, and has George Robert Wendt Jr. (“Hey Norm, how’s the world been treating you?”) doing a considerable amount of heavy lifting in a supporting role that’s instrumental in breaking the tension. What’s more, House is a solid family movie if your kids are looking for something that’s pretty tame by today’s standards.

Our Hero

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We’re first introduced to a troubled author named Roger Cobb (William Katt), a Vietnam veteran who wants to write his next book about his war experiences even though his audience is used to him writing horror novels. Roger is not in the best mental state because he’s separated from his wife, which is the direct result of his son Jimmy’s (portrayed by twin brothers, Erik and Mark Silver) sudden and strange disappearance.

After deciding to move back into his childhood house, where his aunt recently committed suicide by hanging, Roger spends most of the movie becoming increasingly paranoid due to troubling visions he has about his past.


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House starts out like a horror movie, but quickly shows its true colors when we meet Roger’s drunken yet affable neighbor, Harold Gorton (George Robert Wendt Jr.). Harold is a well-meaning fan of Roger’s work, but Roger would prefer to spend his time alone rather than in the company of his new neighbor so he can work on his upcoming novel, as well as some of his personal issues.

One of the primary sources of humor in House involves Harold showing up at inopportune moments, like after Roger has an incident on his front porch involving a shotgun.

Roger’s Trauma

Constantly plagued by visions of his dead aunt and missing son, Roger spends most of his time in a heightened emotional state. Not only is Roger reliving war traumas so he can write his book in House, he’s also experiencing a legitimate haunting in the form of monsters hiding in the closet and behind every corner in this movie.

As a viewer, I appreciated Roger’s questionable mental state, which is further questioned by Harold because most monster attacks in the first act occur when Roger is by himself.

Different From Other Horror Flicks

House is different from other horror movies about a troubled author because the easy thing to do is to make the source of terror a figment of Roger’s imagination because he’s writing a book. Once Harold realizes that Roger isn’t completely insane, they team up and try to figure out what the house is trying to tell them, and their on-screen chemistry is a healthy source of laughter. Not unlike Norm from Cheers, Harold is always slinging beers and getting just a little too tipsy, which makes some of the more genuinely scary moments a lot more lighthearted and campy than they have any right to be.

A Family-Friendly Horror

While House has some legitimately scary moments, I consider it to be a family-friendly movie because its sparse use of violence is offset by its sense of humor. When something terrifying happens on-screen, you’re never too far away from some sort of verbal or visual punch line that reminds you to not take this movie so seriously. Additionally, the monster costumes are well-done, but in a way that will remind you of something you’d see in Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

Stream It Now

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If you’re looking for a terrifying haunted house movie, House may disappoint you if you’re just looking for scares and gore. But if you want to fall out of your seat after a jump scare and immediately let out a chuckle because you were spooked by over-the-top monster prosthetics, then you’ll have a great time with this one. You can currently stream House for free on Tubi.

To learn more about House, you can listen to the GenreVision podcast for a detailed breakdown of the movie.