Houseboat Horror 1989 Review
Directed by: Ollie Martin
Starring: Alan Dale, Christine Jenson, Gavin Wood
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
*I do write a lot of my new reviews on the go, but because I want to cover the entire slasher genre, I like to reuse some of the ones I have previously penciled. Whenever I do though, I always update them after watching the movie once again. Here we have Houseboat Horror and I was THE first outside of Australia to post a write-up of it! I spent years trying to track it down and eventually when I did, it was, ahem, everything that I had expected to be. It is available now on DVD, but this review is from April 2003, when it was still an obscure locally released VHS. I hope that you enjoy the update….
This late-eighties Australian inclusion to the slasher cycle is famous mainly for being the most widely panned of all of the hack and slash entries. It even manages to out-trash utter trashola like Home Sweet Home and the abysmal Voyeur.com in the bad review stakes. Considering the ‘quality’ of those aforementioned movie nightmares, being that poorly received is quite a considerable achievement. Perhaps Houseboat’s only saving grace is the fact that it has become so immensely rare to fans of the genre outside Melbourne, that most of us have more chance of buying the winning lottery ticket than actually seeing the damn thing. With that said, I must admit that its mystifying disappearance has indeed given the picture something of an alluring edge. I am ‘fortunate’ enough to be one of the few that actually own this rarity of a mishap on VHS and therefore feel a certain moral commitment to share my views on whether it’s actually as bad as its reputation would lead you to believe.
The hackneyed plot here is a pure cut and paste amalgamation of two of its biggest American brethrens: Friday the 13th and The Burning. Director Grant Evans (Alan Dale) has been given the job of shooting a music video for a struggling local rock band. He has chosen the location of Lake Infinity as a backdrop for his creation and before long his crew, the gang of musicians and their rowdy groupies are floating aboard the Houseboats of the title. Unfortunately for the youngsters, they decide to settle on a site where many years ago a group of actors were mysteriously torched and a young child was horrendously disfigured. Have you worked it out yet? Thought as much. Yes, it’s no surprise when almost as soon as they arrive, the motley crew begins to fall prey to the frazzled hands of an unseen maniac – Ho-hum indeed. The rest of the story goes exactly where you’d expect it to, as the crispy killer makes short work of the outrageously mulleted cast members…
To be fair, Houseboat Horror starts commendably with an atmospheric (and gory) murder and chase sequence that is plagued only by the fact that the young actress playing the victim has an issue keeping her eyes tightly closed for a two-second corpse close-up post-slashing. From that moment onward, the best way I can describe the feature to you is like a burger on a boiling hot griddle that has just had the cheese placed on top. If you imagine that minutes in real time were seconds on that grill, you can feel as the topping slowly melts and completely engulfs the entire burger/movie with melting fondue. For a start, I couldn’t fail to mention that one of the beer swilling, woman pressing rebel rousers is none other than Alan Dale, who is of course most famously known as Jim Robinson from Aussie daytime soap, Neighbors. Old Helen Daniels would be turning in her grave if she witnessed his loutish shenanigans, which include swearing prolifically and racing his car on the wrong side of the road! Whilst we are on the topic of Ramsey Street, it is even more surprising that his former neighbor (for want of a better word) and equally frumpy pudding faced goody-goody, Harold Bishop (Ian Smith) expressed his dark side in another corny throwaway named Body Melt. Neither actor returned to the horror genre, which I’m sure was something that they never regretted. The choice between working daily with mega-babes to the level of Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruliga and Holly Valance or ‘acting’ besides a gang of talentless brain-starved strumpets is surely the easiest decision since Dave Navarro said yes to Carmen Electra.
In fact, this cast of no-hopers manage to break records in the speed that they will begin clawing at the strings of your patience. Fifteen minutes into the feature you’ll be preying for a couple of The Burning’s ‘raft sequences’, so you can witness five or six of the poorly dramatised losers getting splattered simultaneously. Unfortunately, this Jason Voorhees wannabe is nowhere near as creative as good old Cropsy, so you’ll have to watch the numb-skulls getting slaughtered one by one – extremely S-L-O-W-L-Y. The murders are without a doubt the film’s highlight, simply because they boast some tacky yet surprisingly rewarding gore effects and there’s a whole bunch of them for you to check out. We also get a couple of murderous devices that are rarely seen in slasher cinema (Harpoon, flamethrower and how could I forget the horseshoe?). Let’s not underplay the fact that the chance of seeing Jim Robinson get his head split in half with a giant machete is an occasion that most would find simply too irresistible to miss.
Houseboat Horror certainly isn’t going to win any awards, but for all its nonsensical amateurism it does at least manage to provide a few bad movie giggles. The back cover boldly boasts the inclusion of a ‘pop hit’, which once heard, sounds like a drunken pub karaoke version of Boney M’s greatest hits (the song’s titled “Young Cool and Groovy” no less). Also, what about when the hero manages to go toe-to-toe with the maniac five minutes after he’s been almost chopped in half by a machete? And I can’t forget to mention when the same character is first confronted by the hulking killer and goofs, “Awww p**s off!” I could go on all day, but instead I’ll leave you with a choice slice of dialogue that I believe sums up this whole movie experience perfectly. When one of the bit part extras asks one of the mulleted moppets if his brain is in repeat mode, he answers boldly “Nah, just a little retarded” I couldn’t have put it any better myself…
Final Girl: √
Posted on November 24, 2012, in Pure Eighties Cheese, Slasher and tagged 1989, cheap as chips, cheesy wotsit, Houseboat Horror, killer in the woods, ozploitation, Rare Slasher. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.