House: Two Stories Review

Whoa baby, thank the unholy Blu Ray Machine that is Arrow Films! These splendid men and women have delivered a one, two punch straight from my totally bitchin’ childhood. The House films were extremely well made, low budget, haunted house flicks produced by Sean S Cunningham (of Friday the 13th Fame).

The first House is like a deranged cousin Eddie to Tobe Hooper’s seminal classic, Poltergiest. It’s not very scary, but the special effects are top notch and the film has heart. House II is a light-hearted, silly romp of genre tropes that I genuinely love. The creature effects are amazing, the interior house set design is wonderfully bizarre, the characters are all cartoonish fools, and its hodgepodge of unusual elements ultimately comes together for an amusing time. Combined both movies make perfect companion pieces to one another.

House

In the original House, William Katt (Carrie) stars as Roger Cobb, a horror novelist struggling to pen his next bestseller. When he inherits his great aunt’s creaky old mansion, Roger decides that he might just have found the ideal place in which to get some writing done. Unfortunately, the house’s vindictive supernatural residents have other ideas…

House Exterior

Steve Miner of Friday the 13th Part 3…in 3D fame!

House II

House II: The Second Story sees young Jesse (Arye Gross) moving into an old family mansion where his parents were mysteriously murdered years before. Plans for turning the place into a party pad are soon thwarted by the appearance of Jesse’s mummified Great Grandpa, his mystical crystal skull and the zombified cowboy who’ll stop at nothing to lay his hands on it!

house-ii-baby-pterodactyl

Dinosaurs make EVERY movie better.

I’ll be fully honest with you, when I got this collector’s set, I tore off its plastic wrapper and popped House II into my Bu Ray player first. I’m in the minority, but this sequel was one of my favorite childhood films. Yes, the first movie is genuinely better in almost every way, but I’ll take the sequel filled with cave men, dinosaurs, undead gunslingers and Bill Maher every, single, time. They seriously don’t make em’ like this anymore. As a genre film enthusiast the second House film scratches so many more itches for me and is just a treat from start to finish. I love the quirky plot, the weird creatures, and Bill the Electrician is one of my all time favorite oddball characters. This sequel really ratchets up the wackiness that was lurking just beneath the surface of the first film.  For me, I think that makes it the more memorable of the two films. I love the portals to different places in time, the different baddies after the crystal skull, and the super creepy villain at the end of the flick. If my 12 year old self could have penned an Indiana Jones script it probably would have been eerily similar to the final product of House II. Thankfully it still all holds up after all these years.

Bill_House_2

Bill The Electrician!  Just look at this fucking guy!

The first film is great too. It also features a mis-mashing of genres/elements that works well. This time you get a war film, combined with a haunted house movie, with a sprinkling of PTSD. The horror elements are higher, and it’s much funnier than the more adventure-y sequel. When I was kid there were a few scenes that would genuinely stress me out. As an adult I can appreciate the backstory of Roger and some of the more subtle jokes. Pretty much every scene with the lovable lout neighbor played by George Wendt is a hoot. Overall it’s a film that deals with some surprising dark material, but does so in a way that is very approachable.  I mean it’s hard to take the onscreen horror THAT seriously when Roger keeps strutting about with deepest fucking V-neck I’ve ever seen! This approachable, lightheartedness leads me to the main point of this review…damn these movies are perfect for young kids just getting into horror films!

Deep_V

Roger’s Deep V

I don’t think there is a better collection of films that can be considered “Starter Horror”. What I mean by that is that these films are best experienced at a young age. I probably watched them when I was 10 or 11 and they’ve stuck with me for my entire life. If you’ve got a child and you want to get them started down the path of horror/genre films then you’ll be hard pressed to find a pair of films better suited for the gig. The first film has the PERFECT balance of horror and comedy elements. The second film is so imaginative and filled with delightful creatures that it is sure to please any 12 year old boy or girl! Neither film is overly violent, too vulgar, or features any nudity. They’re just good old fashioned Haunted House films that are a joy to experience. The best thing is that they constantly keep you guessing as to what bizarre situation is going to unfold next. Yet the characters are so utterly likable and grounded that the horror level never rises too high.

BigBenDead

In case you didn’t believe me, the special effects are still incredible today!

The audio and picture quality for this dual set is outstanding and probably the best these films will ever look/sound. Arrow Films, as always, created some new featurettes for this release and they’re filled with great insight to the production. This collection also comes with a hard cover book which is chalk full of history and facts about the House series. As a fan of the films I was thrilled to get all these wonderfully tasty extras!

If you’re an 80s kid who grew up adoring these films this set should absolutely be in your collection. If you’re a younger horror fan who didn’t watch these films hundreds of times on HBO in the 80s and 90s you might be too jaded to appreciate the pure joy that these films imbue upon young viewers. Again, for “starter horror” I don’t think there is anything better. I consider the two House films almost as important as my Universal Movie Monsters upbringing! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

house-ii-dog-caterpillar

Yeah, it’s a cute, green, caterpillar dog like creature.  You in or out?

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