Grandma's House (1989) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Grandma's House (1989) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on September 17th, 2021 | Movie Review | Killer, Dysfunctional Family, 80's Horror

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It’s about two adolescent orphaned siblings sent to live with their grandparents in an old, isolated home in the midst an orange grove.

Grandma’s House was the first film directed by Peter Rader (who also directed Escape to Witch Mountain (the remake)). It stars child actors Eric Foster (who had small roles in Death House (also titled “Zombie Death House”) and Darkroom) and Kim Valentine (.com for Murder) along with Ida Lee (Vegas in Space) and Len Lesser (who appears in The Werewolf Reborn! and (uncredited) in Birdman of Alcatraz) as their doting but not-quite-right grandparents.

Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own grandparents?

Grandmas House Review

If you’ve ever wondered why so few horror film chase sequence finales are set in orange groves, Grandma’s House (which is also listed as “Grandmother’s House”) supplies the answer. It’s because orange groves aren’t scary. At all. A citrusy vibe isn’t a spooky one.

What else can we learn from Grandma’s House? Let’s try to focus on the positive qualities of this film, of which there are three.

First, there is a plot twist which I honestly did not see coming. It may have been because I had nearly dozed off by that point. It may be because there were no clues that would possibly allow even the razor-sharp wit of a Judith Crist to guess what was coming. But the twist generates a mild degree of engagement in the film’s third act.

Second, we get to see Len Lesser (Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo! / Everybody Loves Raymond’s Garvin!) in top form as a grumpy grandpa. He’s perfectly cast. Lesser radiates an archetype with which any viewer is instantly familiar. He projects a practiced, good-humor exterior which barely conceals a baleful core.

Third, horror – at its best – extends the horror of the ordinary; the horror of the everyday and reconfigures it into something exaggerated, fantastical, and analogical. Being orphaned is here is one such horror. It’s an ideal toehold on which to construct an exercise in horror.

A secondary horror is the grandparents themselves. Or any grandparents. Ordinary, cheek-pinching, funny-smelling grandparents. The way they adore children but never seem quite comfortable with them. The way mealtime is always just a little bit awkward and foreign. The sound of a ridiculously oversized clock in the living room which practically vibrates the rafters with its “tick…tock.”

Sure, grandparents seem harmless enough. But does a grandchild’s natural discomfort betray a sinister undertone? (This clumsy rhetorical question would have been preferable to the film’s featherbrained tagline: “She’ll Spoil You … to Death!”)  

Worth Watching?

No. Anything is better than ninety minutes trapped inside Grandma’s House with Uncle Leo.

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