Being a child of the Eighties, I discovered many films on cable. Those movies that were PG-13 were especially run to the point of nausea. This is where a strange little movie called House II: The Second Story (1987) came into my life. I had never even heard of House (1985), but being that the film was rated R, it probably didn’t run as much during the daytime on cable. I’m sure that I first stumbled upon House II somewhere in the middle. It is a crazy story, that even in its smallest segments propel the viewer to continue watching. I was able to finally catch the film in its entirety when I worked at West Coast Video. I was not disappointed. Flash forward to several years later and I come across a poster for House II. I asked my wife if she has ever seen it. She said “no”. The search began on the streaming services and much to our surprise, the whole film was on YouTube. It was not the best quality, to say the least, but the fun, adventure, and zaniness were all there. Now the film and its predecessor have arrived on Blu-ray from Arrow Video. I was thrilled to have the chance to own House II on Blu-ray, but this would be my first chance to see the original film.
The Box Set – Review
Arrow has really pulled out all the stops for the House: Two Stories box set. Both films have had 2K restorations done. This does, at times, date some of the special effects. However, it also highlights the brilliance of practical effects that are not practiced as much as they should be today. The matte paintings are brilliant, the puppetry work is fun, and the makeup (for the second film at least) really sparkles. Arrow Video has even created two separate behind-the-scenes features for the films, allowing fans to really go deep with facts and trivia about these two movies. Yet digital specials features are not all you receive! House Super fan Simon Barber has compiled all the original press materials for all four House films into a Blu-ray sized book that fits into the box set. These are perfect for the fan that enjoys the vintage EPK (Electronic Press Kit). There are also a lot of lobby cards, posters, and production photos, as well. If you are a fan of these two films or the whole series, this really is your holy grail.
House II: The Second Story – Review
As I mentioned before, I discovered this film when I was a kid, so I’m sure the rose tinted glasses were still on when I watched it again. However, I found myself still captivated by the insanity of the story. Jesse (Arye Gross) inherits a house from his parents. He obviously gets more than he ever thought he would as he begins to unravel his family history and learns that his Great-Great-Grandfather was not only a cowboy but an adventurer. His Great-Great-Grandfather’s greatest treasure was an Aztec Crystal Skull; which is not among the house’s wares. Jesse believes that it is buried with his Great-Great-Grandfather and enlists the help of his buddy, Charlie (Jonathan Stark), to dig up the grave. What they find is not only old “Gramps” (played by Royal Dano) still alive, but the Crystal Skull too. It turns out the house and the skull are connected and together serve as a conduit to other dimensions. The forces of evil are always looking for the skull, especially Gramps’ old partner, Slim (Dean Cleverdon), so Jesse and Charlie have to protect him, the house, and the skull.
The film itself is a wonderful fantasy romp where Jesse and Charlie tangle with Cavemen and Aztec Warriors and befriend strange creatures. One of the oddest and best parts of the film is when Bill the Electrician (John Ratzenberger) arrives and helps Jesse and Charlie save a virgin from being sacrificed. Ratzenberger acts as if this is just another part of his day and traveling between dimensions is as easy as fixing a light switch.
What really sells this film to the audience is Royal Dano’s portrayal of Gramps. You really feel bad for this man who found a way to cheat death and was turned into a zombie. Dano also has the character embrace the present with a glee and wonder that most out-of-time characters seldom do. Arye Gross also builds a solid family foundation with Dano, the man who is supposed to be his Great-Great-Grandfather. Without that chemistry, the film would just fall flat and lose a lot of its heart.
If you like oddball Sci-Fi/ Fantasy films like My Science Project, Time Bandits, or Weird Science you will find a home in House II: The Second Story.
House – Review
This was my first and last foray into the film titled House. I knew it was different from its sequel. There are different characters, a completely different house, and a different story. What surprised me was how poor the story for the first film was. They were written by the same writer, but the first film was directed by Steve Miner and the second was direct by the author of both films, Ethan Wiley.
I was expecting something more grandiose than what I saw. Perhaps this was because for the second film to actually get made, the first film had to have been successful. House did have a budget of 3 million dollars and would gross 19 million, so the math there warrants a sequel. What I watched did not. William Kat plays a Vietnam Vet turned successful horror writer named Roger Cobb. Cobb’s personal life is the opposite of his professional one. His son went missing a few years ago, his TV star wife has divorced him, and the aunt who raised him just committed suicide. Lucky for Cobb, he has inherited her house (the same house he was raised in) and the very same house that his son disappeared at (not the same house in the sequel, mind you). To clear his mind and start his new book about his Vietnam War experiences, Cobb moves into his aunt’s house and that’s where the fun begins.
Early in the picture, Cobb tries to capture one of the beasts in his home on film but fails. He then starts to see his son everywhere in the house and these aren’t just memories, but new visions which prompt him to explore more of the house. There is also a lot of dead time and the establishing of other characters outside of Cobb. There is the nosey neighbor, Harold (George Wendt), the hot neighbor, Tanya (Mary Stavin), and her son. These relationships and series of scenes really go nowhere. Sadly, his solo explorations and tiny adventures never really amount to much either for the viewer. The scares fall flat and the Vietnam War scenes are cheesy, so by the time the big baddie and its purpose are revealed, you don’t care. The film was clearly inspired by the Twilight Zone, but where Rod Serling gave you just enough to spin your imagination, Steve Miner’s direction gives you far too much and none of it is really good, to begin with. By the time it was over, I felt as if producer Sean Cunningham (creator of the Friday the 13th franchise) had read Sam Raimi’s script for Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, made some quick notes and then went out and hired Miner to do a film close to what he could remember, but a film with a lot less funny and no horror.
With all that being said about House, if you are a fan of the sequel, the box set is completely worth it!
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS