The Hardy Boy and his co-star in the house that needs love mystery…
After a nervous breakdown, a man moves to his dream house under the care of a nurse. But her past comes back to haunt her.
4 MINUTE THIS HOUSE POSSESSED, ohmy80s and photos © MGM Television
Who hasn’t loved someone once then from afar, and hoped they’d return one day, fall in love with you too and you’d live happily ever after together? This House Possessed (1981) tells of those strong romantic desires felt by a house. Yup, suspend all disbelief for this TV Movie This House Possessed and instead read This House Obsessed.
This film reunited two of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-79) cast members, but here in more adult roles. The Hardy Boys series told of two teenage amateur sleuths, big brother Frank (Parker Stevenson) and wee brother, Joe Hardy (Shaun Cassidy). In the first season, Callie Shaw (Lisa Eilbacher), was a family friend – and employee – who helped them in their adventures. However, for book readers, Callie was Frank’s love interest. But that’s not important right now.
Onto This House
Possessed obsessed… as cue spooky music, two years later, this TV Movie reunited Stevenson with Eilbacher, and with a “guest star”, Joan Bennett. The plot feels like a hybrid of Chick Lit and horror.
This House Possessed begins with literally a splash of horror as a young Donny and Holly (John Dukakis and Amanda Wyss) decide to use the deserted house’s grounds for a bit of lovemaking. The pair are caught on camera by the house security and are seen on the video monitors. Then a garden hose with a life of its own literally dampens their ardour by spraying them with water. The snake-like perpetrator then retreats as the trespassers leave.
Then its night time, as we see around the spooky empty house with suitably eerie music. The music changes to an early 80s sappy pop ballad, and we see the pop idol, Gary Straihorn (Stevenson) on the telly but there is no one watching it. Then it’s chick-lit time, as we see Gary live in a club singing to some awestruck girly groupies.
Sexy Gary’s wearing an unbuttoned shirt showing far too much of his manly chest and very tight trousers (and looking very un-Hardy boy like apart from the hair.) But there’s not a TV camera in sight…
Halfway through his second musical number named Sensitive, You’re Not (a song still in my head days later) Gary collapses. He’s taken to hospital, by his manager, Arthur (Slim Pickens). Arthur looks like he’s auditioning for a role in Maverick (1957-62) with James Garner. Gary was diagnosed with exhaustion and a nervous breakdown.
He’s allocated a nurse, Sheila (who for plot convenience is young, pretty, a former physiotherapist and (about to become) single). Sheila (Eilbacher) looks after him and sits with him, supports him through nightmares that make him scream (and boy can he scream) and massages his fears away.
Sheila also fends off his harpy, pretty, blonde ex-girlfriend Tanya (Shelley Smith) and this causes friction between the women. The house sees all with its sinister monitors. Gary offers Sheila a nursing job to assist his recovery (very creepy that he knows she’s got holidays due), and she accepts. Her well-meaning colleague asks her just how much she’s told him about her past.
Sheila ignores his kindly advice, and she and Gary set off in his jeep to find a house (as he doesn’t have a home, presumably for plot convenience). The pair are drawn to a sleepy town, Rancho Santa Fe which boasts a helluva house (yup, the house we met earlier. No surprise there).
Gary buys the house, as he’s a pop idol and can afford it (so why he didn’t buy one earlier, you guessed it’s for bloody plot convenience). The house is perfect in every way with barbed wire, unbreakable glass in the windows, air conditioning, and self-locking doors and you don’t have to dust it.
This is just as well as Sheila isn’t a housekeeper and the house is bloody huge. Presumably, Gary thinks with no housework it will give Sheila more time to give him back rubs (being the creep that he is). After moving there Sheila hears voices calling her Margaret and she’s even illuminated by a warm yellow beam calling her this name. These eerie events don’t seem to disturb her at all. Meanwhile, the house appears to be monitoring all that goes on between this employer and his nurse.
Sheila goes into town to get Gary more painkillers, while he composes their song (creep). Finally, at 29 mins and 7 secs, Joan Bennett appears as the
Bag Rag lady. She also calls Sheila, Margaret, and asks why she’s come back. This, however, confuses Sheila. Then she tells Sheila she shouldn’t have come, and then the rag lady toddles off with her shopping trolley, filled with crap.
Gary finds a raggedy doll, which freaks Sheila out a bit. Then the pair on a trip – by tandem bike (creep) – into town bump into Rag Lady, who still doesn’t say anything relevant. Sheila and Gary open up to each other. She confesses to him, that the first seven years of her life are a mystery.
This as the
kindly house monitors show Sheila as she is now and in five different photos with her as a baby, toddler and infant with different hairdos. It seems now the pop star (and house) has more than a bit of a crush on his nurse, after the pair flirt a bit he tries it on with her. The house goes a bit berserk setting off flashing lights and fire alarms after she turns down her employer’s very creepy advances…
So what happens next? Why do the house and Rag lady call Sheila, Margaret? Why does the house attack Tanya after she visits? Is the doll relevant? Will romance blossom for Sheila and Gary? (and do we care?) Will we hear all of that song Gary has been composing for Sheila? What is the truth of Sheila’s story? Will Joan Bennett appear for longer than ten minutes in her next scene? Who built the house and is this relevant?
Why does the librarian – who naturally finds out critical information about the house – want to tell Sheila everything in the dead of night? Will the house ever be seen on Selling Sunset (2019)? These and other questions may or may not be answered in the remains of this film and review. So only continue reading if you don’t mind a few spoilers…
On researching this film, I found out the Hardy Boys was still on the telly in 1981 in the UK, so I inwardly praised the BBC for not showing this not on its release. The Beeb showed it in 1984 after that 9pm curfew. With those Hardy Boys co-stars seen in much more grown-up roles, this would certainly confuse my pre-teen brain with the Hardy Boys still on telly as Saturday teatime viewing.
This film is more adult in nature due to a few gruesome horror scenes – leading to a death count of three – and Gary’s apparently increasing creepy behaviour. This film however concentrated more on the chick-lit fantasy in the tale and seen with that predictable trope of an against the odds love story, Here telling of a pop star and the girl next door and true love finding a way.
However, it would have helped if the leading acting pair had more romantic chemistry, I found them quite bland and contrived as a couple in far too many of their scenes together. This love story only got exciting during Tanya’s visit, with a Sheila behaving like a jealous kid when Gary spent time with his ex.
This leads to another shower of horror scenes. Sheila makes snidey comments to Gary the morning after Tanya left when he’d dared to play Tanya their song. Inevitably this friction leads to more predictable romantic tropes with the more wholesome nice girl (Sheila) getting her man, over the more predatory vampy female (Tanya). Yawn.
With a supernatural element, I believed the house obviously gave Gary his breakdown in the hope he’d meet Sheila – who of course would naturally be his nurse – and buy the house (which I assume her soon to be ex couldn’t afford). With them all living happily ever after.
The house apparently hurt or killed those who prevented Sheila from living there for its own sinister reasons. With the house seemingly disliking Gary when he forced himself onto Sheila but it seemed quite happy for him to propose marriage (the house being a big romantic at heart).
I felt Joan Bennett was underused. Sadly, Bennett breezed into and out of the story in four or five small scenes. As the rag lady, she was given quite an unflattering makeover and it was sad to see her explain the back story to her cat. When she was seen in scenes later with Sheila, we discovered the truth of the story of the house, its motivations and what happened in Sheila’s missing seven years.
This scene was sadly not accompanied by an 80s montage or flashback to support it. However, it was a nice touch, that this Golden Hollywood actress was given this tell all scene. As much as I did enjoy her role, I had to suspend even more disbelief. This is due to her ability to enter the house unscathed, where another had died en route to tell Sheila all.
However this TV Movie I believe may also tell a different tale. With the house, a die-hard Hardy Boys TV and book fan wanting a Hardy Boys reunion. Hoping to get Callie and Frank together no matter what the costs (even sacrificing itself if required). So you could say like Gary and his
masseuse nurse, the house probably got a happy ending. But of course, you could just see this house as a silly stalker of a horror film if a sensitive romantic, you’re not.
Weeper Rating: 😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: /10
Hulk Rating: /10
This was entered into The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood‘s Joan Bennett Blogathon. Parker Stevenson starred in The Love Boat, Hotel and Murder She Wrote. Lisa Eilbacher starred in Happy Days. Joan Bennett in Father’s Little Dividend. Slim Pickens starred in The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. Shelley Smith had roles in Murder She Wrote, The Love Boat, Magnum and Hart to Hart. Barry Corbin starred in Dallas, Columbo and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.