There's a good chance you've heard of the House series, even if you haven't actually seen any of the films. This usually comes from one of two places: The reference to House II in Scream 2, or just from the horror community at large. Somehow, this popular series went beyond my notice (I probably saw it at the ental store quite a few times, but never bothered to check it out) until I was watching the bonus features on the Monster Squad 2-Disc set, and they mentioned House. I finally got around to seeing it a couple weeks ago, and that is how I am able to talk about it today. Ignore the warnings; you're gonna want to step into this...
House 1986 Review
House opens up with a helpful young lad bringing an elderly woman her groceries. He enters her huge house, and finds her hanging from the ceiling. A short while later, we are introduced to Roger Cobb (William Katt), a famous horror writer who is revealed to be the woman in the opening's nephew. He moves into her house to write his new novel about his experiences in Vietnam. It is also revealed that Roger's son went misng in that house and was never found, which is why his wife divorced him.
While there, Roger begins to see some very strange stuff going on whenever the clock strikes midnight, like a monster in his closet or a bottomless pit behind his bathroom mirror. He soon discovers that at midnight, almost every door leads to another dimenon, and his son is trapped in one. Roger heads in to rescue him, and we begin to see exactly why his son went misng in the first place...
To the average horror fan, House is filled with several notable names, including director Steve Miner (Friday the 13th 2-3), writer Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps), William Katt (Carrie), and George Wendt (Masters of Horror: Family). Another fun de note is that the Big Ben zombie at the end is played by the legendary Kane Hodder, famous for being the most iconic person to play Jason Voorhees. Wait, why I am I telling you who Kane Hodder is? You should already know this! As you can see, House has a great cast and crew behind the helm, but that's not the only reason to like it.
Fred Dekker's stylish writing keeps the film going and manages to make it comical yet serious at the same time, and Steve Miner's great directing is spot-on. The performances were all great, with a tip of the hat to the wonderful acting by William Katt and George Wendt. The creature effects were all pretty goofy, but they just add to the madcap charm of the film. There's a very, very, very low body count, and very little gore, but House is still great fun.
With a refreshing take on an old concept and a wonderful force behind it, House manages to be a successful and captivating romp of a horror movie from start to the fantastic finish. Great acting, charmingly cheesy effects, and a perfect score by Harry Manfredini all build up to a very fun popcorn movie. It's never scary, so if you grade all movies on the same scales as, say, The Exorcist, this will be a major letdown for you. But if you like to have fun and enjoy a little camp sprinkled on your horror movie, House will prove to be an entertaining gem worthy of a
House truly was a great film in the horror genre. It was funny without ever strewing into the comedy genre, and it managed to stay within the realm of the horror genre with a new take on an old idea. It was relatively successful and could ealy be made into a franchise, so obviously, a sequel was made, and what a sequel it was...
House II: The Second Story 1987 Review
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As the film starts, we see a young couple giving their baby son, Jesse, to a different couple before they enter their manon of a house and are shot by an unseen assailant. 25 years later, Jesse from the beginning is all grown up and decides to move into his parents' old house along with his girlfriend. We are also introduced to Charlie, Jesse's best friend and the comic relief of the film. The two believe that an ancient and magical crustal skull was buried along with Jesse's great-great-grandfather. They dig his body up, and are surprised to find not only the crystal skull, but the body is alive.
Gramps (the great-great-grandfather) instructs Jesse and Charlie to put the skull on an altar in the house and everything will go back to normal. However, doing that does just the oppote as very strange things begin to happen around the house as the trio have to confront and defeat Aztec priests, barbarians, dinosaurs, and Gramps' evil rival, Slim in a battle to prevent them from getting the crystal skull.
Even if it doesn't have the amazing cast & crew the original had, House II has its fair share of notable faces. There's Lar Park Lincoln (Friday the 13th Part VII), Royal Dano (Killer Klowns from Outer Space), Arye Gross (the spectacular Exterminator 2), Johnathan Stark (Fright Night), and John Ratzenberger (multiple Pixar films, as well as Motel Hell). Kane Hodder is the stunt coordinator, stuntman, and even has a brief cameo in the film as a guy in a gorilla outfit. Bill Maher even has a main role!
House II ranks up there with Blood Diner for most WTF moments in one film. My favorite moment comes when an electrician named Bill (John Ratzenberger) arrives at the house to hook up the electricity. He finds a hidden room behind a wall, and he ventures in it with Jesse and Charlie. In the room, they find Aztec priests about to sacrifice a virgin. Bill acts like this is an everyday occurrence, picks up a sword, and begins to fight them off along with Jesse and Charlie. He then hands them his buness card, which reads: Bill Towner: Electrician & Adventurer. This is one of many de-splitting moments that make the movie great.
In some ways, House II: The Second Story is better than the first. It's a lot funnier, campier, and just a great experience. For the average horror folk, the first one is superior by a mile due to the sequel being mainly fantasy/adventure instead of horror. But even with that in mind, you still have got to appreciate House II for some things. The special and make-up effects are marvelous, the score by Harry Manfredini is still great, and Fred Dekker's writing still knocks all the other films out of the park. One of the few sequels that manages to be just as good as the original.
The House series is one of the best around, and if you haven't seen both films already, what are you waiting for? They're just really fun movies that don't require any logical thought to view, and they proved you can make a good horror flick without lots of blood, a high body count, and gratuitous nudity. I've noticed a lot of hate going toward House III (The Horror Show, 1989) because it has "nothing to do with the franchise". Well, think about this: Did House II really have anything to do with the original? New characters, new house, different plot, and it could barely be condered horror! While House III didn't concentrate on the actual house itself, it still had some great haunted house bits. They have a zable cult following, and I deeply love both these films, so conder them both "required viewing." And by the way, both films are being re-released by Image Entertainment this September as part of their Midnight Madness Series, so I wouldn't hetate to buy them both.