The Horror Show (also released as House III: The Horror Show) is a 1989 supernatural horror film starring Lance Henriksen and Brion James. Although marketed as a sequel to the film House for the non-US market, its connection to the other House films is very limited. The only real connections are that some of the crew that worked on the first two house movies also worked on this and that it involves a supernatural force haunting a house.
The third “true” House film was named House IV in reference to the existence of this film. A similar movie called Shocker was released in October of 1989, when this was released in April 1989. The plot points of both movies are almost identical, including a serial killer and his execution via electric chair. Shocker later became a cult classic, this however….
Detective Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen) has been hunting the serial killer named “Meat Cleaver Max Jenke” for years and the movie opens with him finally having him cornered at a power plant. Knowing that Jenke has a young girl as a hostage, Lucas decides that the best course of action is to attempt to apprehend Jenke with the help of his partner. He sends his partner to investigate the plant while he checks out a nearby diner to which he finds many gruesomely decapitated police officers.
Lucas eventually makes his way over to the plant and is greeted by his partner who has had both his arms chopped off, probably not the best time for a hug. His partner obviously dies and Lucas confronts Jenke who uses the little girl that he has taken hostage to get Lucas to throw down his gun.
Jenke proves that he really is a complete psychopath as he beheads the young girl and throws her head at Lucas who then wakes up; it is later revealed that this is a reoccurring nightmare that he has.
It turns out that Lucas managed to catch Jenke after he had killed the girl and he is due for execution that day. Lucas hopes to be able to move on with his life after he knows that Jenke is dead. During the execution the killer swears he’ll come back to tear McCarthy’s life apart, it takes a huge amount of electricity to actually kill Jenke so much so that it literally cooks Jenke. The gore effects used here are actually really good and it does a good job of showing just how relentless and almost unstoppable Jenke is.
After the execution, an expert of the occult attempts to convince Lucas that Jenke was not gone and that he would return. McCarthy shrugs it off at first, but is soon plagued by demonic visions of Jenke’s spirit taunting him. It’s quite entertaining to see the various ways in which Max Jenke taunts Lucas; he has a seriously annoying laugh that just grinds on you so you can’t really blame Lucas for losing it too much. You can tell that Brion James is having fun making Jenke come across as insane as possible and in all honesty he’s probably the best thing about the movie.
Jenke’s mass murder spree is just beginning, he returns as a malevolent spirit that surges through electrical equipment. Jenke plays on Lucas’s paranoia which leads to him getting framed for the murder of his daughter’s boyfriend and the supernatural occult guy.
It’s up to Lucas to clear his name, save his family and stop Max Jenke once and for all.
Now, in my opinion out of the first three house movies this is probably the worst. I actually don’t think this is that bad of a movie, in fact it’s a really fun 80s horror. At times, it manages to create something of a creepy atmosphere and the soundtrack does a lot to help. Brion James is very entertaining as Jenke and there are more than a few occasions in which he had me laughing, although I’m not sure if it was intentional.
Oddly enough, at times The Horror Show feels like some kind of Nightmare On Elm Street rip off.
If you enjoy 80s gore and horror then I think you’d like what you see in the horror show, there are more than enough hacked off limbs, blood splattered walls and some more inventive moments.
The plot of the film has some issues but very entertaining overacting from the actors makes it a fun watch.
The Horror Show isn’t exactly the best horror movie ever made, in fact I think it’s probably my least favourite of the first three house films but it’s still a satisfying, entertaining 80s horror that I really enjoyed. It may not be a “cult classic” because it does have issues but as long as you don’t go into it taking it too seriously then I think you’ll have fun.
House III: The Horror Show