House / House II
Starz / Anchor Bay // R // $29.98 // June 26, 2001
Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 14, 2001
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Anchor Bay has been making the most of their fairly recent acquisition of the New World library, consistently pumping out quality DVDs of such cult classics as Pin, Slugs, The Stuff, Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark, and Flowers In The Attic, among countless others. In June, everyone's favorite Michigan-based horror savior packaged two of the more prominent titles from the New World catalog, House and House 2: The Second Story, in a set limited to 20,000 copies. It's been quite a while since I've watched either of the first two House films, even though I've seen each of 'em many more times than I'd care to admit. Although I'm still miffed that Anchor Bay is holding off on Return of the Killer Tomatoes until next year, I'm tickled to see these two underrated films given such remarkable treatment on DVD.

Attempts to blend comedic elements and horror tend to fail miserably, with very few exceptions. Fortunately for anyone forking out the cash for this set, House is one of those that succeeds. William Katt of The Greatest American Hero fame stars as horror writer Roger Cobb, whose marriage and career both hit the skids after his son mysteriously vanishes without a trace. After his aunt's suicide, Cobb decides to use her home as a refuge to crank out a book on his experiences in Vietnam. Cobb soon discovers that his aunt's claims of evil in the house aren't as batty as he previously thought, and with his neighbor Harold (George Wendt), Cobb sets out to destroy the haunting force and reclaim his child.

Another actor who found fame and fortune with Cheers pops up in the first of three sequels, House 2: The Second Story. No plot elements or characters carry over from one film to the other. If House is a progenitor to horror/comedies like Evil Dead II, then House 2 is closer to a manic, light-hearted adventure along the lines of Army of Darkness. Jesse McLaughlin (Ayre Gross) moves back into his family home a full twenty-five years after the murder of his parents there. Jesse learns about the criminal past of the great-great grandfather for whom he was named, and he and buddy Charlie (Jonathan Stark) decide to dig up Gramps in the hopes of unearthing a long-lost crystal skull. Not only do they find the magical skull, but Gramps turns out to be alive and well, having patiently waited for seventy years for someone with the sense to dig him up. Charlie and Jesse aren't the only ones with their eyes on the skull, though -- Slim, Gramps' partner in crime, offed Jesse's parents while hunting for it, and he's not gun-shy about doing the same 25 years later. With John Ratzenberger as an adventurous electrician briefly in tow, Charlie, Jesse, and Gramps fight off Slim and the various beings who reside in alternate dimensions located within the house.

Video: House and House 2 have been making the cable rounds for as far back as my feeble mind can recall, and the anamorphic 1.85:1 transfers on these two discs blow my likely-faulty memories clear out of the water. Fleshtones and assorted colors in House are strong, yet natural. Solid black levels and excellent shadow detail make for a sturdy foundation for the crisp, largely clear image. I apologize in advance, but I felt obligated to make at least one 'house' pun. The source material seems to have been in great shape, as no scratches, tears, or miscellaneous print flaws leapt out at me. A number of extremely small bits of dust and dirt pop up, but not to any greater extent than I was expecting. House 2 follows much along those same lines, though light film grain is an infrequent and mild annoyance that didn't appear to any appreciable degree in the original. The House set is another in a lengthy series of DVDs that look far superior than they would've if handled by pretty much any other company. A typically strong effort from Anchor Bay.

Audio: Though a handful of lines of dialogue come off as ever-so-slightly harsh, I don't really have much else to say about the reasonably robust mono tracks presented on each disc. There isn't a trace of underlying hiss for either House film, nor is there really any distortion of any sort. Neither of these these tracks are going to rattle the walls or knock the socks off the Joneses, but they are both perfectly serviceable.

Supplements: Director Steve Miner and producer Sean S. Cunningham didn't contribute commentary tracks for the Paramount DVD releases of their two Friday the 13th collaborations, but they turn up on the commentary for House, alongside writer Ethan Wiley and star William Katt. The track starts off fairly strong, offering quite a bit of detail on how the project came together, but after that, there are lengthy gaps of silence. I'm not sure if the group fell into the trap of watching the film instead of chatting about it, or perhaps they just didn't have much to say. What's said tends to be interesting enough, but there's not quite enough of it. Cunningham and Wiley return for the commentary on House 2, and despite the number of participants being slashed in half, this second track manages to be ever-so-slightly more lively and engaging. House sports a solid making-of featurette, juggling lengthy clips from the film with shot-on-video interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The two trailers on House, as well as the single trailer on the House 2 disc, are presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Conclusion: I've long been a fan of House and House 2, and it's a pleasant surprise to see these underrated films being given such stellar treatment on DVD, not to mention being packaged together at a reasonable price. Only the first 20,000 copies of House include the second disc, and there have been a slew of posts on various DVD discussion boards about how difficult finding the set is proving to be, despite its recent release. Grab 'em while you can. Recommended.

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