Gary Busey is a very strange man. Very strange. So, when I heard about a film starring Gary Busey in which he moves into an unsuspecting family’s attic, I immediately sought it out. I’m sure I’ve said this here before, but the 90’s was a particularly weird decade for horror. Throughout the decade there were plenty of weird fads and resurgences of older genres, with tonights film being a prime example of such oddities that kickstarted 90’s horror. Sit down folks, because I’m going to try my best to breakdown this fucked up little film to you, let’s dive into 1989’s Hider in the House.
Hider in the House follows Tom (Gary Busey), a deranged man in search of a family. When he comes across the Dryers (Mimi Rogers, Michael McKean, Candace Hutson, and Kurt Christopher Kinder), he decides to move into their attic and watch over them.
The reason that the synopsis above is so short is because this film really has no coherent narrative. This movie is about as stranger as Gary Busey himself, with the structure of the film being a complete mess. The film begins with setting up Busey’s crazed character, finally going out into the real world. This is of course after three-and-a-half minutes of opening credits that feature audio of Busey’s parents abusing him. This sequence goes on for so long, playing over gloomy choir music, that it becomes absolutely hilarious.
After setting up Busey’s character, he just kind of decides to move in with this random family–unbeknownst to them. The next 45-minutes of the movie are just a bunch of random scenes of Busey doing weird shit. He rubs a rabbit’s foot on his face, he gazes at children in the middle of the night, walks around the neighborhood lighting matches, random shit like that. It isn’t even until the 20-minute mark that he does something sinister and even that is just more of him doing random shit. The first hour of this film is basically The Gary Busey Variety Hour as we watch him hang out around the house and do shit that goes from goofy to dangerous at the most random times. It’s the weirdest chunk of the film, but it’s the most entertaining. Watching Busey go through these events while playing it so straight is such a joy to watch, Busey taking the role as serious as he would any other.
Through a lot of this beginning it’s also not clear of Busey’s intentions. Does he want to kill the family? Does he want to be a part of the family? Does he just want a place to stay? We’re eventually given the answers, but it’s after at least 30-minutes of being aimless and incoherent. In the midst of the Gary Busey Variety Hour, we get random instances of the family falling apart amidst parental fighting. It’s just kind of depressing and adds nothing to the movie. I mean, it’s something but it just doesn’t fit into any real narrative. The only reason you are worried about Gary Busey hurting this family is because their life is already so depressing, it’s so sad to see it getting worse. Especially with Busey’s character randomly fucking with the family.
Eventually–at about the 45-minute mark–the movie finally settles on a story. It’s at this point that Gary Busey begins to sneak out of the attic and interact with the family as if he’s just some random neighbor, specifically trying to win the affection of Mimi Rogers’ character. The whole last hour of the film is Busey trying to romance her and it’s simply the single most cringe-worthy thing that I’ve ever seen. Watching his goofy ass trying to be smooth is absolutely hilarious.
The entire cast is great in this film, with everyone taking the bizarre material very seriously. Busey is obviously committed to his role, acting his ass off in every single scene he’s in. Earlier I mentioned that watching the family drama was extremely depressing, the reason for that is that the actors are all acting their asses off. You watch them and believe that they are a family, which is what makes the whole film experience so uncomfortable, the fact that you buy them as a real family. If there’s one thing that I can’t take away from this film, it’s that none of the actors phoned-in their roles.
Despite the good acting, this whole second act love story is where the film SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWS down to a creeping, creeeeping halt. As much as I love the first half for it’s sheer weirdness, this film really loses the entertainment in the second half. For a film that was really riding on being random, when it focuses it really began to lose my interest. It’s one of those situations where you’re just waiting for the film to wrap up, especially with this film carrying a completely unnecessary 106-minute runtime. At 80-minutes long this could have been something, but having a whole extra hour of boredom makes it so hard to get through.
So, is this a gem or can it be thrown back into the dump?
This is a very similar situation to last Dumpster Dive’s subject Monster Dog. The second half of the film is EXTREMELY boring and hard to get through. Granted, the good acting does help it a bit, but it still just ends up being completely lifeless. That being said, the first half of the film is filled with so much random brilliance that it makes it all worthwhile. This is a bad movie. It’s a bad movie. But it’s truly something amazing to behold in all of it’s bizarre glory. I don’t know why I seem to gravitate towards these types of films, but when something is just so fucking weird, it totally fascinates me. Despite it’s issues, I’d still recommend checking it out. You’ll get some battle scars, but it’s worth it.
Well, that’s another gem from the dump, keep a look out for the next installment of The Dumpster Dive, where I’ll take a look at the 1982 sci-fi horror film Mutant (AKA Forbidden World). I’ve been on kind of a roll with the entertainment of these films, so hopefully Mutant can keep the streak going.