80s Horror Films House and House 2 Come to Blu-ray: Review


By: Thomas Riccardi

When I was working for the county in downtown Sacramento, I met a fellow fan of horror named Daniel. We would talk about various horror movies and one movie he turned me onto was a movie called House. At the time, my thoughts were, “Didn’t this movie come out in the 80’s?” so I passed on it. Yet after a few weeks of convincing, I decided to give the movie a watch and fell in love with it. However, the only way I could watch it was either on DVD or on a crappy quality on the Internet. But now the folks over at Arrow Video have released a new remaster of the movie on Blu-ray. Is this a movie you should pick up, or should you avoid this house and move on down the road?

The movie focuses on a writer named Roger Cobb who has a troubled past. He was once married to a gorgeous lady and had a son named Jimmy. However, one day his son went missing and this created a rift between husband and wife and they eventually separated. A writer by trade, he had spent a good part of his life crafting horror stories for his well-established audience. For the book he is currently working on, he decides to focus on the real-life horrors he experienced while serving in Vietnam. While he is working on his book, he finds out that his aunt was found in the house hanged to death. Instead of trying to sell it, he decides he is going to live in it. Thus starts a movie filled with wild twists and turns. I don’t want to give away the ending, but all I will say is that this movie has some great moments that will have you laughing one moment and screaming in terror the next.

House has been brought from the 80’s into the 21st century with a digital 2k remaster as well as three different sound setups (mono, stereo, and DTS-MA 5.1 sound options). And let me tell you, this restoration makes the movie look and sound better than the crappy VHS transfers I can recall from my childhood. The picture is crisp and clean and it feels as if I am watching in a movie theater. There are also English subtitles for the hearing impaired as well as an audio commentary soundtrack. This track features the actor William Katt (who some recognize from the TV show The Greatest American Hero), screenwriter Ethan Wiley, director Steven Miner, and producer Sean S. Cunningham (who has worked on a few films including the Friday the 13th series!) Also included are the original trailers from the 1980’s, and a first draft of the script (including the original draft Wiley was going to submit to The Twilight Zone) .

Additionally, there are stills and an original “making of the movie,” but there’s one more shiny bit that true fans will love: “Ding Dong, Your Dead!” This is a new documentary on the making of House that has almost the entire cast and crew from the movie, from the esteemed producer and director, to some of the actors, to even the composer, special effects crew, and even the fight coordinator (who happens to be Kane Hodder, the person who played Jason!). What I also love about this release is the new cover art that was made for it. Done by the incredibly talented Justin Osbourn, this reversible sleeve has great art no matter which way you display it! The art also reminds me of the VHS cases of yesteryear, when the only thing you had to go on was the art on the sleeve.

If you are a fan of the original House and are looking for a great version to watch at home, or have never experienced the movie and love horror, this is the film to pick up. It has everything that a horror fan could ever want in a movie, so you need to experience it for yourself.

As for the sequel, additions to any franchise can be a gamble as they can either capture the spirit of the original or just be an absolute trainwreck. When I was first exposed to House, I thought it was an amazing movie and wondered if there were any sequels made. And then I found out that there were four! However, I’d just like to cover House 2: The Second Story here. But is this a house you will want to explore, or should you move to a new residence?

House 2 starts the way the original one started as two friends are moving into an old property. However, this was also the site where the parents of one friend, Jesse, were mysteriously murdered years ago. Now the two are trying to claim this property for their own, but there are a few problems, like a mummified corpse named Gramps. There is also a crystal skull that has gotten the attention of a zombie gunslinger who will do anything to obtain this artifact. Will Jesse and Charlie make it through the house alive, or will they succumb to the many pitfalls that are alive in the house? Without giving anything away, all I can say is this is just as wacky of an experience as the first one (if not more so!)

This film has been beautifully restored in its 2K glory, and for those who can remember watching it on DVD – or even worse, VHS – you can see the clarity in the picture. Restored faithfully from the original film elements, this is one movie where you can see the effort that went into this disc. The sound quality is also amazing – you have a choice of either regular stereo, or DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio options for the audiophiles out there. As with the first film in the francshise, there are also optional English subtitles for those who might be hearing impaired, as well an an optional audio commentary track that has the producer (Sean S. Cunningham) and writer (Ethan Wiley) discussing the film. A still gallery, the original trailer, a TV spot, and a vintage electronic press kit (or EPK) are also included.

Like the original House, there is also a documentary included on the disc entitled “It’s Getting Weirder! The Making of House II: The Second Story.” This documentary shows how the film was created and features interviews with writer-director Wiley; producer Cunningham; stars Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Lar Park Lincoln, and Devin DeVasquez; composer Harry Manfredini; special make-up and creature effects artists Chris Walas and Mike Smithson; visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman; and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder. This documentary shows how the film was made as well as a few shots of them on the set. This disc also has a reversible sleeve as it has the original art on the back and a newly commissioned painted piece done by the great Justin Osbourn, who has a way with making great cover art that throws back to a simpler time where we couldn’t watch reviews or see trailers online and the only thing you had going for a rental was the cover art.

If you are a fan of the original House or just want an amazing film to watch with some great performances, you need to check out House 2: The Second Story. For more information on this and other releases, head over to Arrow Video’s website and get ready to climb the stairs to the second story.

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