Blu-ray Review: “House: Two Stories” Is The Classic Horror Series In Its Best Form Ever

“Arrow Video has once again lovingly compiled a gem of a film series that has been mostly forgotten by the public.”


 

Step inside, we’ve been expecting you! At long last, Arrow Video is proud to present the first two installments of the hit horror franchise “House” on Blu-ray for the first time!

Arrow Video has once again lovingly compiled a gem of a film series that has been mostly forgotten by the public. This time with the “House” series. This set is loaded to the brim with extra features including some really informative new documentaries and fascinating commentary tracks.

“House” is a film series that borrows from everything great. The film has elements of Edgar Alan Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, some Wes Craven nods, and at times, “House” even descends into the sheer lunacy of Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.”

Here’s what you can expect if you watch House 1 and 2:

  • One hanging corpse
  • Plenty of Vietnam flashbacks
  • One pool drowning
  • One wife turned into a monster
  • Shooting at a stuffed fish
  • One kid dragged up a chimney
  • Corpse beating with a shovel
  • One harpoon shooting
  • One grenade explosion
  • One crystal skull
  • One 170-year-old corpse great great grandfather
  • One pterodactyl
  • One caterpillar dog
  • Two cameos from Cheers actors
  • One Aztec ritual

I watched House 1 and 2, but Arrow has released the whole series in a set. So I’ll briefly provide a review of the first two films in the House series. And for the record, this “House” has nothing to do with Hugh Laurie as a Doctor.

 

“House”

“House” was written by Steve Miner who also directed films like “Soul Man” (where C. Thomas Howell does blackface), “Warlock,” and a personal favorite of mine, “Forever Young” with Mel Gibson. The script was written by Ethan Wiley, who would also write “House II.”

The film tells the story of William Katt (Roger Cobb), a Vietnam War veteran who is now a writer in the vein of Stephen King. Katt has had a hard life. He’s separated from his wife and his son has mysteriously disappeared. Katt is also pressured to write another book by his publisher so Katt moves into a new house and begins work on a story about his Vietnam experiences.

Soon after moving into the house, Katt begins having strange dreams and experience odd nightmarish sequences. Katt hallucinates his son drowned in a pool, is attacked by a monster from a closet, encounters a stuffed marlin that comes to life, and is attacked by another monster that’s his wife. At one point, Katt is hired to babysit a local kid and the monsters drag the kid up the chimney, but fortunately, Katt is able to rescue the child.

There’s no logic or sense of order within the film’s world. This is normally a cardinal sin of screenwriting, only here it works because the film continuously finds creative situations in which to place Katt. Perhaps the strangest sequence in the film is when Katt descends into the crawl space of the house and ends up spelunking into a dark vortex where he finds his son.

The reunion between father and child does not last long, however, because Katt is confronted by a ghoul of a soldier that Katt knew in Vietnam. The soldier, Big Ben (Richard Moll who played Bull on “Night Court”) proceeds to chase Katt throughout the house.

The film crescendos into complete insanity by the end. Katt discovers that the house is now positioned at the edge of a cliff, uses a grenade to kill Big Benn, and eventually causes the whole house to explode. I know this all might sound like a wild ride, and it is. But “House” is such inspired lunacy and clever writing that it’s hard to even put the film on pause. My only wish is that I could have seen this film in 1986 when we could expect mainstream horror to do less insane things. I’ve watched “House” several times and I plan on watching it at least a few more within the next couple weeks. If you like horror, watch this film.

 

“House II”

“House II” is directed by Ethan Wiley who wrote the original “House.” The best way to describe this second entry in the “House” series is if you thought the twists and turns in “House” were odd, then “House II” is even crazier. It’s also important to note that “House II” is not a straight-up sequel to “House.”

The opening to “House II” starts with a very unnecessary sequence that is set twenty-five years in the past. The film forwards to present day where a young couple, Jesse (Arye Gross) and his girlfriend Kate (Lar Park Lincoln), move into an old house that has been in Jesse’s family for generations.

While they don’t have significant roles, the film marks the appearance of Bill Maher as slimy record boss, John. Another character who plays an aspiring singer who wants to be like Madonna, who is played by Amy Yasbeck. Yasbeck is best known as the wife of the late John Ritter. I heard someone once describe her to a modern day Madeline Kahn and that’s a very accurate comparison. She’s also beautiful.

Jesse and his friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark) discover information in the house’s basement about a crystal skull that was owned by his great great grandfather as well as details about Slim Reeser, a partner of the great great grandfather’s that also wants the skull. In a quest to find the skull, Jesse and Charlie dig up the great great grandfather, Gramps (Royal Dano). Dano is a living corpse who now must adapt to modern life. In a lot of ways, Dano learning about TV reminded me of when Bill and Ted in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” bring historical characters into modern day.

Remember when I said that “House II” made no sense in terms of logic? At this point in the film, Jesse and Charlie are transported to a jungle scene. In the jungle, Jesse and Charlie are attacked by a cave man and must rescue the crystal skull from a pterodactyl. Emphasizing the point that this film doesn’t care what direction it moves in, the pterodactyl (and a caterpillar dog) become pets. How do I know it’s a caterpillar dog? Because that’s what it’s referred to in the documentary. This bothers me because a pterodactyl was a real type of animal, but a caterpillar dog is most certainly not. There are also dinosaurs in the jungle. And dinosaurs make everything a little bit cooler.

Bill, an electrician, shows up to inspect the house. Bill (who also turns out to be an adventurer with a sword) is played by John Ratzenberger (Cliff of “Cheers” fame). Bill, Jesse, and Charlie then go to a Mayan temple to rescue the crystal skull and fight off guard.

Are you ready for the next crazy twist in “House II?” Well, here it comes. Jesse has a wild west shootout in a western setting with Gramps’ partner who rides a skeleton horse. Jesse gets the skull, but gramps, unfortunately, passes away. Gramps’ death mostly occurs to make us care more about the characters, which to at least some degree it succeeds in doing.

The film ends with Jesse and his friends using the crystal skull to transport back to the wild west. While not an entirely logical ending, this was a memorable way to end the film. Ultimately, “House II” is much harder to sit through than the original because there’s no real cohesive plot. I enjoyed this film, though, because it takes so many odd twists and turns. I’d be tempted to call “House II” a horror film, but it isn’t. If anything, “House II” is horror comedy and that’s a genre that needs as many additional films.

So check out Arrow’s “House” series if you’ve heard of it. Check out the series if you like weird horror. Check out the series if you like Bill Maher or Amy Yasbeck or caterpillar dogs. Buy this box set because it’s an awesome reissue of a classic if often forgotten film series.

Now available in a Special 2-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray


 

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