When successful Horror writer Roger Cobb (William Katt) inherits a spooky family home from his recently deceased aunt, it seems like the new beginning he’s been searching for. Yet it’s not long before the weird starts knocking at his door. As Roger settles in to begin his latest novel (based on his experiences in Vietnam), the ghosts of his past quite literally return to haunt him, as the house seems to come alive with only one aim, to drag him to hell.
What sounds like a straight-up horror isn’t at all. The inherent charm of 1985’s unexpected hit is the comedy. At the forefront of the horror/comedy sub-genre, House deftly set up rubber faced gags, scares and gore and follows them all with a punch line. The result is a fun nostalgic walk through the mid-80s and an enjoyable ghost house ride that culminates with the classic appearance of Big Ben, a 6’ 7” zombie marine.
Then came the sequels. Actually, sequel isn’t really the right word. There are few film series as eclectic as House. With the small (and undeniably tenuous) exception of House IV, none of the following films have anything to do with the first film, or for that matter each other. Instead what we have are three films that don’t even share the same sub-genres.
House II: The Second Story (yeah, really) has another poor sap inherit a house only to discover that it’s a pan-dimensional gateway filled with historic crazies who all want the crystal skull that his newly rejuvenated zombified great, great grandfather found years ago. Adventures, insane creatures (including a caterpuppy) and literally no horror ensue.
House III: The Horror Show is so far removed that it wasn’t even a House movie in the US (and the house doesn’t play a part in the story at all). Instead genre stalwart Lance Henrickson faces off against the ever-watchable Brion James in a spooky case of cop versus recently electrocuted ghost serial killer. This is by far the second best of the series and certainly gives Wes Craven’s Shocker a run for its money.
House IV: The Repossession (get it) sees the return of Roger Cobb, although he is neither a writer or has the same wife and his son has been replaced by a daughter. In fact you’ll learn that he was only hired at the last minute which is why his character has nothing to do with the original at all. It’s terrible.
The star of this box set is the bonus footage. With the exception of House III, each film comes with excellent new documentaries, featuring new interviews with the key players. Each disc also comes with an Audio Commentary, all of which are compelling if only to truly understand why the series is such a clusterfuck. Also, any Audio Commentary in which the director calls up James Cameron to confirm that we’re watching what he deems to be the ‘most disgusting moment in film history’ is a must to listen to.
Original Featurettes, Stills Galleries and original Trailers are also available across the four-disc set. As a slice of ‘80s horror history, the House: The Complete Collection is an invaluable addition to any collector, even if the only disc that will ever get any extra play after watching all of the extras, will be the first one.
HOUSE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTORS: STEVE MINER, ETHAN WILEY, JAMES ISAAC, LEWIS ABERNATHY / SCREENPLAY: ETHAN WILEY, ALAN SMITHEE, LESLIE BOHEM, GEOFF MILLER, DEIDRE HIGGINS / STARRING: WILLIAM KATT, ARYE GROSS, LANCE HENRIKSEN, TERRI TREAS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW