What do you get when you take a bunch of people from the Friday the 13th films and get them together to make a series of films? If you thought another slasher flick, you would be wrong, but I’m going to take a guess and assume you said a haunted house comedy/horror flick, as that is what today’s review is all about. Arrow Video has done an excellent thing for us collector’s, by releasing House and House II: The Second Story on Blu-ray, in a limited edition boxed set, with a whopping 148-page booklet that goes through the entire series of all four films.
All four films you say? Yes, the House series consists of four movies, with the third film known as The Horror Show in North America, but House III in other places. House IV: The Repossession came out years later and tried to connect with the original movie by having William Katt return briefly as Roger Cobb. To be perfectly honest, the series is rather whacked, as none of the films is connected, save for the sad attempt at a connection in House IV.
If you’re wondering why Arrow Video only released the first two movies in North American, it all comes down to rights. Scream Factory has previously released House III on Blu-ray under the US title and House IV, I have no idea who owns that, but I’m sure Arrow will be kind enough to release it on Blu eventually. If you are clamouring to own all four movies in one boxed set, you can spend a bit more and get the Arrow Video UK release, as that includes them all in a fancy Region Free set.
Alas, I’m not here to talk about that awesome set, but instead the slightly less awesome, but still very much kickass Two Stories Limited Edition.
Released in 1985, House is directed by Friday the 13th Part 3 director Steve Miner and produced by Sean S. Cummingham. The film features William Katt as the main character Roger Cobb. Roger inherits his Aunts house after she commits suicide. He is hesitant to go back there, as his son disappeared the last time he lived there and he has yet to be found. However, Roger decides to confront the ghosts that haunt him and heads back to the house. It doesn’t take long for a bunch of spooky stuff to start flying out of closets or tools to come alive to hunt Roger down. It isn’t just a typical old haunting, however, as something more sinister and connected to Roger’s Vietnam past, is haunting him and this thing wants Roger to pay for what he did.
I probably made House sound scarier than it is, as House is through and through a comedy, with a few bits of horror elements thrown in. As the hour-long documentary included on the Blu-ray states, this is a type of movie where you don’t know whether whatever is behind the door is going to scare you or make you laugh. The film was co-written by Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad), so you pretty much know right away the type of humour the film is going to incorporate, and for the most part, it works.
The only thing I wish House would have done better was to explain a bit on why this house is centre stage for all the hauntings. Why did Roger’s Aunt commit suicide? She says the house tricked her, but how exactly did it trick her? These are all questions left up in the air, and we are left to just accept the film for what it is, faults and all.
Nevertheless, House does a wonderful job of mixing horror elements and comedy together for a grand old time. It’s a film that I’ve watched numerous times growing up, and the Blu-ray is currently the best possible way to see it unless of course, you have issues with framing.
House has been framed a bit differently compared to the past releases, as the frame has been shifted to the right, resulting in an off centre look and a bit more information showing up on the left-hand side. Take for example the two pictures below, courtesy of caps-a-holic:
As you can see, the original release did not have a crew member visible on the left side, but with this new release, he is clearly seen, 80s wrist watch and all. There are only a few quirky moments that I noticed while watching the movie and more often than not, the framing didn’t bother me. Still, I know there are plenty of purists out there, and this is going to drive them bonkers.
As for the audio, the Blu-ray offers up a Mono option and a 5.1 option. I listened to the film in Mono, and I have no complaints, but I’m not an audio connoisseur, so please forgive me if others say stuff otherwise. To me, the film was loud, and dialogue was clear. No audible distortion was present.
When it comes to special features for House, the film features an impressive hour-long documentary on the making of the film, with several cast and crew interviewed. The documentary is entertainable and quite enjoyable. A lot of the information can be obtained in the already mentioned booklet, but it’s nice to sit down and catch up with everyone involved. Time has gone on, but the good memories of making the movie seem to be lasting for everyone. Rounding out the features is a vintage making-of, still gallery, trailers and an audio commentary with director Steve Miner, producer Sean S. Cunningham, actor William Katt and screenwriter Ethan Wiley.
House II: The Second Story
I have already confessed my undying love for House II: The Second Story already, so I don’t have much more to say about it. I’ve grown up watching this unconnected sequel since I was a wee lad and to this day, it still makes me smile. It’s a campy, often hilarious film, with adventure and quirky characters around every corner. I prefer House II over the original House, but the two films are so different, you can’t really compare them. The only thing the same is the crew behind the scenes.
Does House II: The Second Story make any sense? No, not at all, but gosh darn it, the film is just too damn likeable to throw anything negative towards it. Here are a few quotes from my previous review if you don’t want to read it all:
Fun is the best word to describe House II: The Second Story. It just reeks of fun. The acting is okay, the plot is thin, but dammit, I had tons of fun with this movie. It’s got adventure, horror, comedy and a few beautiful ladies in distress. Plus, a cameo from John Ratzenberger, as an electrician/adventurer, which comes so far out of left field, I can’t help but just take it for what it is and go along for this crazy, kick ass ride.
A fun filled horror comedy, that has nothing to do with the first movie, but has everything to do, with giving the viewer a childhood flashback, filled with decaying Grandfathers, cute monsters, hot women and an undead Cowboy out for revenge. What more can you ask for?
Much like the House Blu-ray, House II: The Second Story also has some framing issues, but I felt it wasn’t as noticeable this time around. A few scenes are noticeably shifted off centre, but nothing jumps out at you enough to be distracted by it. I did read a few complaints about a light leak type issue on the right-hand frame for roughly 30 minutes or so, but honestly, the issue isn’t enough to even muster a fart up over. The film has been lovingly restored from previous releases, and caps-a-holic once again provides the info you need to see how good it looks (or how off centred if you are so inclined):
Audio options provided for House II is a Dual Mono option, which I watched the movie in and didn’t have any issues with, but I do have to wonder what exactly Dual Mono is? Might have to do some research on it. Also provided is a 5.1 audio option.
Just like House, House II: The Second Story gets an almost hour long documentary with the cast and crew, which is just as enjoyable as the first movie’s feature. It comes clear that a few of the people involved were disappointed over the success of the film and how it turned out, but I honestly don’t see any reason to be saddened. Yes, the film wasn’t a blockbuster success, but appreciate what you did and all the people that you affected with this loveable film. Also included is a vintage making-of, still gallery, trailer, TV spot and audio commentary with director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cummingham.
Would I have loved to get my grubby little hands on the bigger boxed set from Arrow Video that featured all four movies? Well, yeah, but am I glad I have this one? Damn right I am glad, and you will be glad as well. The two films included can arguably be considered the best in the series and the booklet provided is outstanding at going through each film in rich detail. The features on the movies are highly informative and quite a bit of fun to sit through. Will the framing issues be bothersome for some viewers? Most definitely, but not enough to distract from plopping down your money on this fantastic set. Pick it up!
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1
AUDIO: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, LPCM 2.0 (House II), LPCM Mono
RATING: R, PG-13
PRODUCTION DATE: 1985, 1986
RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2017