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  Hider in the House All Mad Cons
Year: 1989
Director: Matthew Patrick
Stars: Gary Busey, Mimi Rogers, Michael McKean, Kurt Christopher Kinder, Candace Hutson, Elizabeth Ruscio, Chuck Lafont, Bruce Glover, Leonard Tremo, Johnny Green, Bob Neill, Carole King, Jake Busey, Ryan Sheridan, Martin Goslins, Rebekka Armstrong
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tom Sykes (Gary Busey) suffered a troubled chldhood as he was beaten by his parents and never knew a happy family life. This has led him as an adult to a succession of incarcerations in mental hospitals, but now it seems as though he might be on track for a normal life, though his psychiatrist (Chuck Lafont) is unaware Tom assaulted the desk clerk at the boarding house he is staying at when he felt pressured to pay his rent. With his sessions nearing their end, he needs to find a better place to live, and it just so happens he is passing the construction of a large house in the suburbs when he has a brainwave...

Well, who wouldn't want Gary Busey living with them? Even if you didn't know he was there, he'd be a reassuring presence, hiding out in your attic, emerging at night to creep around the house, setting up listening devices to eavesdrop on your activities, yeah, that wouldn't be unsettling at all, would it? Actually, although Busey's inclusion in the cast list meant works such as this became rather camp latterly when he was judged to be, shall we say, eccentric, the premise was not unknown the real world - no, not Gary Busey moving into people's houses unnoticed, but instances of genuine hiders in the house, usually homeless folks who were desperate for somewhere to stay.

Needless to say, their illegal residency did not play out as a psychological examination of the modern family as the movie did, and didn't end up with the hiders going nuts as events detailed here head inexorably towards, but it was an interesting example of life mirroring art, if you could call this art. Although the film crept out across the world without making much impact, initially at any rate, something about Busey's handling of what could have been a stock psycho role made it more captivating as about halfway through you recognise this may be a high concept thriller, but contained within was a very credible performance since he came across as so humble in most scenes.

Those scenes where he wasn't being threatening, that was, but for a movie menace Tom Sykes was strangely sympathetic when we were aware of how tough his background had been. Not that this excused the murders he goes on to commit to keep his secret, but you do feel as though you understand his cracked mental state. The family who move into the house of the title are the Dreyers, husband, wife and two kids plus dog, the latter being the first to sniff out Tom and therefore the first to get slaughtered and buried in the back garden under cover of night. When the Dreyers hear the odd thump and scuffle, they think they have rats so call the exterminator, but he succumbs to Tom's heavy-handed approach to security as well.

This idea of the outsider coveting the family ideal, which turns out not to be so ideal after all, was a very nineteen-eighties theme in thrillers and horrors, and if director Matthew Patrick resisted slasher movies which may have been more commercial, he and screenwriter Lem Dobbs did manage to make a comment on the falsity of the "grass is greener" theory, as husband Phil (Michael McKean) is having an affair now his wife Julie (Mimi Rogers, matching Busey's quirks with her sensible reason) is resisting his advances thanks to a dissatisfaction with their marriage when he was so offhand with her otherwise, leaving the two little kids stressed out, not helped by the new environment. Cue Tom's further introduction into their lives, wanting to sustain the family unit by posing as a friendly neighbour but actually obsessed with them and what he can do to orchestrate their lives so they can achieve this ideal his twisted mind cannot see must endure bumps along the journey, and may not even survive. If Busey was better than the material, it was still pretty good material, including his "weird-off" with Bruce Glover. Music by Christopher Young.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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