Horror was an immensely popular genre in the 1980’s. There were a number of genre offshoots, with slasher films being the most watched. Technically, the first slasher film was the 1960 masterpiece Psycho. The early ‘60’s movie audiences were shocked and not quite ready for more of the same kind of movie. Skip ahead to 1978, when a more receptive audience welcomed John Carpenter’s Halloween with open arms. A young, ambitious man named Sean S. Cunningham blatantly ripped off the winning Halloween formula with his summer camp opus Friday The 13th. The slasher film had arrived.
Unfortunately, every wannabe director across America and Canada pumped out cheaply made slashers, most being unwatchable. By the mid ‘80’s, slasher films were losing steam. Ironically, the man who had started the slasher revolution was now ready to destroy it. Cunningham was looking to mix horror with comedy in a way that wouldn’t alienate the core horror audience. Enter House (get it?)
House is the story of Roger Cobb (William Katt, Carrie (1976) and The Greatest American Hero), a horror novelist going through loads of personal upheaval. Cobb is going through a divorce, he’s tired of writing horror, and he’s ever vigilantly looking for his missing son. What else could possibly go wrong? How about his aunt committing suicide?
Instead of selling his recently deceased aunt’s home, Cobb decides to move in, hoping he’ll find the peace and quiet necessary to write his next book about his personal experiences in Vietnam. Distractions come in droves, though, including the wacky, well-meaning next door neighbor Harold (George Wendt, Cheers). What could have been a serious take on the old haunted house tropes turns into a semi-comedic roller coaster ride.
House manages to make its audience jump and laugh in relatively equal amounts. Katt and Wendt gleefully play off each other. To add to the television pedigree, Richard Moll (Bull on Night Court) is hammy, in a good way, as Cobb’s old Army buddy. The practical effects are fun to watch, especially the fat witch. Overall, House is worth the watch. House II: The Second Story, on the other hand…
House II: The Second Story is a sequel to House in name only. It’s the same basic premise: a young man moves into a big house from his childhood after family dies and leaves it to him. For House II, though, the scares are non-existent. House II is not a horror movie. It’s a bizarre mishmash of fantasy, western, and comedy. I’ve heard that a number of people grew up with House II and have a special place for it in their hearts. I am not one of those people.
House II does have 2 actors that were in better horror movies that I actually enjoy: Jonathan Stark (1985’s Fright Night) and Royal Dano (1987’s Ghoulies 2). If I’m to look for a couple of positives about House II it would be the goofy, over-the-top John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers) and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder, best known as playing Jason Voorhees in 4 Friday The 13th movies. And speaking of Friday The 13th…
The connection between the first 2 House movies and the Friday The 13th franchise is astounding. Sean S. Cunningham, producer of both House movies, directed the first Friday The 13th. Steve Miner directed House as well as Friday The 13th Parts 2 & 3. Harry Manfredini did the music for both House flicks, as well as the first 8 Friday The 13th’s. Kane Hodder, the stunt coordinator on both House movies, played Jason in Fridays 7-10. Ronn Carroll played a police officer in both House and Friday The 13th. Steven Williams played a deputy in House and bounty hunter Creighton Duke in Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday. Finally, Lar Park Lincoln appeared in both House II and Friday The 13th Part 7.
House: Two Stories is brought to us on home media courtesy of the brilliant folks at Arrow US. The 2 Blu-Ray set includes beautiful 2K transfers of House and House II, two brand new documentaries (one for each movie), along with reversible Blu-Ray sleeve artwork and a 60 page companion book that delves deep into all 4 House movies. Both Blu-Rays and the companion book come in a gorgeous package featuring stunning artwork on the front and content details on the back.
House: Two Stories is worth owning, especially for the companion book and the all new documentaries. A welcome addition to any true horror fan’s collection.