Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: April 11, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

House – 93 min

House II: The Second Story – 88 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Audio:

House

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

English Mono Linear PCM Audio

2.0 English Linear PCM Audio

House II: The Second Story

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 English Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Note: Arrow also released a four film boxed set of the entire series that is only available in the UK (Region B).

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 “Filmmakers Sean S. Cunningham and Steve Miner scored hits with several simple Friday the 13th films but tackle a more complex story here with embarrassing results… Though much of this nonsense is played tongue-in-cheek, an audience can hardly be expected to swallow the screenplay’s arbitrary approach to Cobb’s character… The monsters are fake and rubbery, better suited to a comedy than a film in search of scares.” –Variety (December 31, 1985)

Variety’s review of the film captures the reception bestowed upon House by critics upon its release and it seems to be blissfully unaware of the fact that House isn’t intended as a straight horror film. It was designed to be a hybrid of both horror and comedy. The story is somewhat familiar to genre fanatics as it tells the story of Roger Cobb, a horror novelist struggling to pen his next bestseller. When he inherits his aunt’s creaky old mansion, Roger decides that he’s found the ideal place in which to finish his new book. Unfortunately, the house’s monstrous supernatural residents have other ideas.

Critics were never going to be enamored with the film, but those who curb their expectations and accept its over-the-top B-movie sensibilities will agree that House manages to balance the horror and comedy elements rather nicely. Unfortunately, House II: The Second Story—which was rushed into production after the box office success of the first film—isn’t as successful at maintaining this balance. The sequel follows Jesse as he moves 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-great-grandfather, his mystical crystal skull, an assortment of ridiculous hybrid creatures, and the zombie cowboy who’ll stop at nothing to lay his hands on it. The entire movie plays like one of those terrible made-for-television movies that air on the Disney channel every year during the Halloween season. One might even call it horror-lite as it seems to have been designed specifically for ten-year-olds.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video’s packaging for this release is nothing short of amazing. Three items are held in a very sturdy box featuring a beautiful design that is an interesting upgrade of the “corpse’s disembodied hand” concept popularized by the original one-sheet designs. Two of these items are the Blu-ray discs. It is nice to find that each disc is housed in its own clear Blu-ray case with reversible sleeves. Interestingly, the new artwork for both movies is more in line with a Scream Factory release than Arrow’s usual aesthetic—but it doesn’t ultimately matter because the reverse of both features the iconic original one-sheet designs and these are superior (and more in keeping with the excellent new box art). Also included in the first film’s case is a sleeve containing information about the new restoration transfers.

Limited Edition

Limited Edition Contents

The third item included in the box is a beautiful limited edition hardbound book entitled The House Companion by Simon Barber. At 148 pages in length, this is a substantial addition to the set. The book contains an introduction and eight chapters—two for each of the four films in the House series. The first of the two chapters devoted to each film is always an essay containing plenty of production information while the second contains the film’s original press materials (or press book). More pages are devoted to the original film than to any of the three sequels but this is as it should be.

Both discs contain animated menus that utilize footage and music from the film and both are attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

HOUSE

3.5 4 of 5 Stars

Sometimes video transfers are difficult to judge fairly without expert knowledge about a film’s original source materials. This particular transfer is a case in point. According to the insert included in this package, House was “exclusively restored in 2K resolution for this release by Arrow Films” and is presented in its original 1.85:1 ratio. Without knowledge of the original image, it is difficult to know for sure if what seems to be framing issues with this transfer doesn’t actually represent the original release. If it accurately reflects the original, then it easily earns four stars. If these perceived flaws are mistakes in this particular transfer, we give it 3.5 stars.

 Apparently, the film was scanned from the original 35mm interpositive before being graded, so it seems somewhat reasonable to give Arrow the benefit of the doubt. The result isn’t perfect, but it is much better than this film has looked on home video prior to this release. Grain structure isn’t perfect throughout the entire film but this never distracts from one’s enjoyment and it resolves organically without experiencing unsightly compression problems. Colors seem to reflect its source rather nicely for the most part, though skin tones can exhibit a rosy hue. Detail is strong enough—especially in the closer shots. Some of the optical effects limit the quality of the picture, but this isn’t the fault of this transfer. In fact most of the issues seem to be the result of the film’s low budget production. This may very well be the best this film will ever look.

HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY

4 of 5 Stars

House II: The Second Story was given exactly the same restoration treatment with similar results, although we feel that this transfer exhibits a more stable grain structure than the original film. Colors look as if they accurately represented here as does contrast and clarity. Detail looks very good and is probably the transfer’s finest attribute. The biggest issue here involves the less than perfect shadow detail in certain sequences, but this is probably won’t detract from one’s enjoyment.

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Sound Quality:

HOUSE

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow offers three High-Definition audio options (although there isn’t much difference between the Mono Linear PCM and the 2.0 Linear PCM). The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is noticeably more dynamic with some effective separations but all of the tracks are adequately prioritized and never exhibit any troublesome issues.

HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY

4 of 5 Stars

Only two audio tracks are offered for House II: The Second Story, but there isn’t any reason to complain as both the 2.0 Linear PCM and the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio offer a solid listening experience and exhibit good fidelity. The 5.1 mix is certainly a more vigorous sonic experience that offers more room for effects and the Harry Manfredini score to breathe, but both tracks are clear and well prioritized.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

HOUSE – (DISC 1):

Audio Commentary with Steve Miner (Director), Sean S. Cunningham (Producer), Ethan Wiley (Screenwriter), and William Katt (Actor)

This audio commentary is one of the most enjoyable commentary tracks that I’ve heard in quite some time as all four participants seem to be having a lot of fun as they discuss the film and its production. Unlike many commentary tracks, the participants don’t merely describe what is happening on the screen—and they never run short of information or fun banter either. What’s more, it is an irreverent track without any pretension—these guys know their audience! Some will probably complain that some of the information was included in Arrow’s excellent new documentary, but this overlap is to be expected as it covers quite a bit of territory.

Ding Dong, You’re Dead! The Making of House – (01:06:39)

At over an hour and six minutes in length, this brand new documentary features interviews with Sean S. Cunningham (Producer), Steve Miner (Director), Ethan Wiley (Screenplay), Fred Dekker (Story Contributor), Harry Manfredini (Composer), William Katt (Actor), Kay Lenz (Actor), Barney Burman (Effects/Make-up), Brian Wade (Effects/Make-up), James Belohovek (Effects/Make-up), Shannon Shea (Effects/Make-up), Kirk Thatcher (Effects/Make-up), Bill Sturgeon (Effects/Make-up), Richard Hescox (Artist), William Stout (Artist), and Kane Hodder (Stunt Coordinator). Reading this list of contributors should indicate just how comprehensive this documentary really is, and we are happy that the interviews given were edited into a single worthwhile documentary. It proves that quality trumps quantity. One wishes more releases would include this sort of comprehensive retrospective.  This is probably the crown jewel of the set’s supplemental package.

The Making of House – (24:07)

This vintage program—which seems to be an episode of some obscure television show—also takes a look ‘behind the scenes’ but isn’t nearly as comprehensive. However, it is better than many EPK featurettes as it offers a glimpse behind the curtain and gives viewers the opportunity to see how the film was sold to the public. Fans will love it!

Theatrical Teaser – (01:27)

Theatrical Trailer #1 – (00:59)

Theatrical Trailer #2 – (01:28)

TV Spots – (01:31)

The three included theatrical trailers are most definitely products of the 1980s and are fun to watch. The television spots are interesting as well but one’s enjoyment is dampened somewhat by the unfortunate quality of the video source.

Stills Gallery

This is a collection of some of the stills and artwork used in the film’s marketing campaign.

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HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY – (DISC 2):

Audio Commentary with Ethan Wiley (Writer and Director) and Sean S. Cunningham (Producer)

This is another lively track but it isn’t quite as fun as the one offered for the first film. However, those who enjoy the film will certainly enjoy this commentary track as it is an instructive diversion.

It’s Getting Weirder! The Making of House II: The Second Story – (57:38)

This retrospective documentary about the making of House II: The Second Story is nearly as comprehensive as Arrow’s retrospective about the original film and is every just as engaging. It includes new interviews with Sean S. Cunningham (Producer), Ethan Wiley (Writer and Director), Harry Manfredini (Composer), Arye Gross (Actor), Jonathan Stark (Actor), Lar Park Lincoln (Actor), Devin DeVasquez (Actor), Hoyt Yeatman (Effects Supervisor), Chris Walas (Effects/Make-up), Mike Smithson (Effects/Make-up), and Kane Hodder (Stunt Coordinator). Conspicuously missing is Bill Maher and John Ratzenberger—but this isn’t at all surprising.  The documentary covers all aspects of production—including the rushed development of the project which explains many of the film’s deficiencies.

Making House II: The Second Story (Vintage EPK) – (14:38)

The vintage EPK is an interesting curiosity for its glimpse behind the scenes and as a marketing tool. It contains the usual navel-gazing publicity interviews and is heavily padded with footage from the two films.

TV Spot – (00:33)

The included television spot gives one an indication of how this sequel was marketed.

Stills Gallery

This is a collection of some of the stills and artwork used in the film’s marketing campaign.

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Final Words

Move over, Scream Factory! Arrow Video has once again given horror fans an incredible gift. House: Two Stories is beautifully packaged, contains solid restoration transfers of both films, and includes a comprehensive assortment of supplemental materials. It easily earns a recommendation for horror fanatics.

Review by: Devon Powell

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