Horror novelist writer Roger Cobb's life is a mess. His son Jimmy has vanished, his actress wife Sandy has divorced him, his aunt and adoptive mother has seemingly just committed suicide, he's suffering writer's block, and has a case of post-traumatic stress disorder thanks to his tenure in The Vietnam War. On top of everything, he's decided to stay at his aunt's inherited house, where his son vanished and that he believes is haunted by malevolent forces. Believing that the house is responsible for all his troubles, Roger moves in, intending to find the truth behind it. As he unravels the mystery, he has to contend with inter-dimensional forces of darkness and his wacky neighbors.
The film had three sequels: House II: The Second Story, which was a Time Travel comedy with a different cast and setting; House III: The Horror Show, which was a totally unrelated film that was a sequel In Name Only; and House IV, which is the only sequel to be a direct follow-up to the first film.
This film contains examples of:
- Absolute Cleavage: A rare male example. Roger sports an absurd deep V-neck sweater exposing half of his chest. Can also count as Fanservice.
- Adult Fear: Your son going missing while you're supposed to be watching him.
- No less terrifying is the possibility of accidentally killing a loved one (in this case Roger's ex-wife).
- Big Bad: The ghost behind all of Roger's misery turns out to be his former soldier buddy Big Ben, whom he left to die at hands of the enemy in Vietnam.
- Black Comedy: The film centers on very dark subject matter with a super-light tone.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The finale. Big Ben accidentally reveals his weakness and renders himself powerless against Roger. Roger then shoves a grenade into his ribcage while Big Ben is helpless to do anything but sputter ineffectually.
- Deadpan Snarker: Big Ben has quite a snark when he shows up:Roger: ...Big Ben?!Big Ben: No, it's your fairy godmother!
- Disney Villain Death: Subverted; Roger manages to cause Big Ben to fall of a cliff, but he comes back soon after.
- Genre-Busting: The movie has all the ingredients of a grim horror drama, but the majority of it is Played for Laughs.
- Gun Twirling: Done by the winged skeleton after it snatches the shotgun from Roger.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Big Ben is completely unstoppable until he takes Roger's son Jimmy hostage, forcing Roger to overcome his fear and inadvertently revealing that Big Ben only had any power as long as Roger was afraid of him.
- Innocent Innuendo: Roger thinks his attractive neighbor is hitting on him. What she's actually doing is clumsily and strangely proposing he babysit her son.
- Made of Iron: Big Ben was shot several times with an AK-47 and still lived long enough to endure several weeks of continuous torture at the hands of the Vietcong afterwards (which did kill him eventually). No wonder he's pissed at Roger.
- Mercy Kill: After being shot several times in Vietnam and being unable to move, Big Ben asked Roger to kill him so he wouldn't be captured by the Vietcong. Roger was unable to, and Big Ben was captured and tortured to death. This is why he's haunting the house.
- Nosy Neighbor: Harold thinks Roger is crazy and suicidal until Roger invites him over to catch a "raccoon" in the attic that is really a monster.
- Oh, Crap!: Big Ben's reaction to accidentally rendering Roger unable to be harmed by him, covered up with panicked, ineffectual threats.
- Rasputinian Death: What Roger has to do to dispatch a demon disguised as his ex-wife.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Roger is deeply haunted by his experiences in Vietnam.
- Trauma Conga Line: What happened to Roger before the film starts. He endured the Vietnam War (during which he refused to put his best friend Big Ben out of his misery and allowed him to be captured and tortured to death by the Vietcong), his son Jimmy was abducted, and his wife divorced him.
- The Vietnam Vet: Roger. One of the sub-plots throughout the movie is him trying to write a book telling his experiences in the war.
- Vocal Dissonance: The "Sandy Witch," a grotesque monster that talks in a high-pitched chipmunk voice.