With the prolific guys at Arrow Video currently releasing new Blu-ray versions of the famed House franchise, it’s now time to turn to our attention to 1987’s House II: The Second Story. While the first film became a huge favourite of many genre fans, it was decided to switch the attention to another batch of characters and another eerie house for the follow-up to the ’86 original. Still, with shocks and surprises aplenty, let’s see if The Second Story is worth a second look.
Much like the first movie saw Bill Katt’s Roger move in to his grandmother’s mysterious old house, House II centres on Arye Gross’ Jesse and the old family property where his parents were murdered years prior. While pal Charlie (Jonathan Stark) joins Jesse to explore this spacious, creepy abode, it’s the arrival of Jesse’s long-dead mummified great-great grandfather that ups the weird ante. Fear not, for this dead relative is well meaning. The zombie cowboy with a snarly grin and mean intentions, however, is not quite as friendly – particularly in his mission to claim a strange crystal skull (obviously way before Indy and his alien shenanigans).
Upon first viewing, House II: The Second Story will always be compared to its predecessor. Once you get past the fact that the two films are not interconnected in terms of ongoing narrative, you soon realise that this is a fun and warm sequel tinged with slight overtones of horror. But that’s part of the charm of the House franchise as a whole – House III notwithstanding. In the barmy, bonkers tale here, we have a whole host of genre tropes ticked off; from zombies, to cowboys, to spirits, to dinosaurs, to strange new creatures, to alternative dimensions, and plenty more.
House II doesn’t quite have anything similar to the strong performance of the original’s Bill Katt anchoring the picture, but it still has plenty to make it a worthwhile follow-up that’s definitely worth watching. And due to the way that the franchise doesn’t follow one overreaching story, The Second Story is perfect to pick up and check out as a standalone movie. Performance-wise, it’s Cheers’ John Ratzenberger who steals the show in a small but brilliant role as he devours scenery and quips wise, and writer/director Ethan Wiley deserves a lot of credit for the enjoyable dialogue and story that’s put together in general.
Like the new Blu-ray release of the original House, this release of House II is the same as the version included in House: The Complete Collection that Arrow released earlier this year. As such, the special features are plentiful and a joy to take in – particularly the brand-new It’s Getting Weirder! retrospective documentary that brings some of the film’s key players back to discuss the sequel.
House II: The Second Story is a vastly underrated follow-up to a true genre classic, and it’s a movie that’s so often overlooked by many. Ultimately, it’s not quite as good as that original ’86 film, but this new release is the perfect chance to delve back in to this sequel and to appreciate it for its own unique charms.
Special Features: Audio commentary / It’s Getting Weirder! The Making of House II: The Second Story documentary / Vintage EPK / TV Spot / Trailer / Stills gallery
HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ETHAN WILEY / STARRING: ARYE GROSS, JONATHAN STARK, ROYAL DANO, BILL MAHER, JOHN RATZENBERGER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW