Grandma’s House (1989)

Also known as Grandmother’s House, for the picky.

I’m not entirely sure what to say about this one. I feel as though I should watch it a few more times, but even then, it’s so hard to pin down that…well, anyway. Two kids, David and Lynn, have their father die, leaving them orphans. They get sent to live with their grandparents, Spike and…Grandma. They might be serial killers. David has dreams of them hacking up a woman, and they see the woman everywhere. Eventually it turns out she may be the kids’ mom, who isn’t really dead, just crazy. So she’s the real killer—but who is the kids’ father? Is there incest involved? Who knows? I don’t think anyone does. Director Peter Rader included.

This is a weird one. You can tell from my writing style that I’m not sure what to make of it all—it’s almost like one of those generic VHS tape slashers that’s not studio material but still doesn’t have that classy trash touch (the kind I typically don’t like). It’s almost one like one of those. But it almost seems to have that trashy ambition mixed with that trashy “this dialogue works here, I suppose” abandon. Some lines and facial expressions and plot elements just seem…off. For the first ten minutes, no one talks except the grandparents. David and Lynn just…stare. And stare. And it’s really unsettling. But it’s good. I feel like dialogue in these first ten minutes would take away from some of the magic. The magic’s limited, but it’s there, sure enough. It just fades as the movie goes on. This is one of those ones where you just slap your forehead and ask yourself, “Wait, why?” It’s not even a “Wait, what?” type of film…well, except during the scene when David’s seemingly brain-damaged cousin is giving him a tour of the sewer where a girl supposedly was killed. “Here’s her underwear…I could make you eat those!” So weird.

Sometimes this movie is actually scary. There are a few jump scares that I think work rather well, and the mood is actually kinda creepy, during the parts when we think that the grandparents are the killers. There are a lot of shots of David just walking around at night, using his infrared scope, with some good quiet music. The grandparents, especially Spike, have genuine menace to them behind (or perhaps because of) their initial kindness, and as such it’s really shocking that they’re not the murderers. I thought that having the crazy not-dead mom was a nice touch—maybe a little cliché in retrospect but pulled off effectively. Of course, this isn’t something for gorehounds. There’s a splash of blood and that’s it. But it’s not disappointing, trust me.

I really hoped this review would help me figure out more of what I thought of this movie, but it really wasn’t good for that. I guess one could liken the whole thing to a dream—it’s brief (despite a surprisingly quick hour-and-a-half runtime), it’s nonsensical (but grounded in reality), and you forget a lot of it when you wake up. One of the true headscratchers, really—and I’m not sure I can recommend it. Take a look someday, but don’t be afraid to cut out. If your weirdness nose doesn’t work as well as others, it may not hold up for you as much as you’d like.