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  House II: The Second Story Tear The Roof Off The Sucker
Year: 1987
Director: Ethan Wiley
Stars: Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Royal Dano, Bill Maher, John Ratzenberger, Lar Park-Lincoln, Amy Yasbeck, Gregory Walcott, Dwier Brown, Lenora May, Devin DeVasquez, Jayne Modean, Ronn Carroll, Dean Cleverdon, Doug MacHugh, Mitzi Kapture
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jesse (Arye Gross) is coming home to the large house owned by his parents, who died when he was a baby in somewhat mysterious circumstances. What he does not know is that they were shot to death by the zombified corpse of the guide to the Aztecs of his great-grandfather, also called Jesse (Royal Dano). The old man was an explorer and archaeologist, a career his descendant, who never knew him, has eschewed for a job in the music industry along with his girlfriend Kate (Lar Park-Lincoln), and they hope to settle into this new home to pursue that vocation, though Jesse's friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark) and his girlfriend Lana (Amy Yasbeck) may disrupt that peace and quiet - just as he finds evidence of a precious Aztec artefact.

The first House movie was a surprise hit, therefore Hollywood did what it usually did under those circumstances, made another one. There was a snag, however, two in fact, in that the budget was less on the follow-up, and hardly any of the original cast would be returning since they had all raised their prices, therefore writer Ethan Wiley, who had penned the first film from Fred Dekker's storyline, opted to make an entirely new plot and populate it with new characters. That said, the basic premise of a haunted house that contained all sorts of unexpected surprises was adhered to, so the audience who appreciated that formula first time around would have some idea of what to expect in the sequel.

The mixture of comedy and horror to result in a goofy mish-mash was retained, and if anything this instalment was even more child-friendly than the initial effort, no real swearing, and bloodshed left to some bullet wounds more or less (plus Cliff from Cheers was comic relief). Nevertheless, it had the same 15 certificate as before, to entice the younger crowd not old enough to see 18 certificate movies in the cinema, or more likely rent them on home video, though most adults watching it at the time would probably find it too daft to take seriously, but not funny to justify itself as a comedy. If you were under ten years old, however, you'd get a kick out of it as an eighties kid, feeling you had definitely gotten away with something by seeing it.

Whether kids in the future years of the twenty-first century felt that way was highly questionable, but that essential tone so redolent of its decade was in every frame of House II, including that terrible, punning subtitle. Gross was an acceptable replacement for William Katt though he was hardly offered any depth to play, he might as well have been a hero in a Scooby-Doo style cartoon for all the nuance he was asked to bring, and Stark was his wacky sidekick who only underlined that impression. He was not all that funny either, but the anything goes mood was not unenjoyable, with Chris Walas taking a pay cut to craft some distinctive makeup and - yes! - puppets for Jesse to encounters, including a prehistoric bird chick (as in a bird) or most memorably the so-called "caterpuppy", a cross between, well, a caterpillar and a puppy.

It was green, if you were interested. As Jesse opens up portals to other dimensions thanks to his ownership of a crystal skull that his grandfather uncovered, the opportunity for the effects work presented itself, with a nice line in stop-motion dinosaurs and monsters, a shade too briefly glimpsed, alas, though amusing to see nonetheless. But Gramps was there too, as Jesse and Charlie dig him up in the graveyard to get that artefact and manage to revive him into the bargain, played by the usually unmistakable Dano under heavy "undead" makeup. A typical scene would have the hundred and fifty-odd year old man driving a sports car as he gets used to the modern world, that was the level of humour, and the horror was not much more impressive when a Wild West theme was developed, which should give you an idea of how random this was to watch: not boring, at least, but all over the place in its breathless attempts to keep your interest, much like a caterpuppy might try to be appealing. Music by Harry Manfredini.

[The entire House series is available from Arrow as a Blu-ray box set. It features:

Brand new 2K restorations of all four films
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
The House Companion limited edition 60-page book featuring new writing on the entire House franchise by researcher Simon Barber, alongside a wealth of archive material

And on the second disc for House II:

Audio commentary with writer-director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham
It s Getting Weirder! The Making of House II: The Second Story brand new documentary featuring interviews with Ethan Wiley, Sean S. Cunningham, stars Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Lar Park Lincoln, and Devin DeVasquez, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up & creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
Stills Gallery
Theatrical Trailer.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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