Monday Morning Movie Review: House (1986) and House II: The Second Story (1987)

This week’s Monday Morning Movie Review is a double feature:  I’m reviewing the comedy-horror flicks House (1986) and the even goofier sequel House II: The Second Story (1987).  While the films share a name and both take place in odd houses, the two storylines are completely independent of one another.

House (1986)

The first flick, House, is the scarier of the two, and only lets on that it has comedic elements a bit further into the movie.  The premise is that a Stephen King-esque author, Roger Cobb, is taking possession of his eccentric aunt’s old home in order to find some solitude for writing his next book, his memoirs about his service in Vietnam.  At midnight one evening after moving into the old mansion, he opens a closet door, only to be assaulted by a terrifying creature with multiple faces.

Soon, other strange creatures make themselves known.  When humorously left watching his ridiculously hot neighbor’s song, the child is nearly captured by two creepy gremlins.  His ex-wife—an attractive soap opera starlet—is transformed into a hideous, bloated hag with bright red fingernails.

Ultimately, Roger finds his way into a terrifying nether-world that is linked to the house; it is in that world—which resembles the jungles of Vietnam—Roger finds his lost child, Jimmy.  They return to the real world, only to be followed by Big Ben, Roger’s war buddy who blames Roger for not killing him, rather than being taken captive by the Vietnamese.

This film seemed far darker and spookier in tone that the sequel.  A lost child, a destroyed marriage (the two are related), traumatic Vietnam War flashbacks:  these all lend a more serious air to House, though there are certainly humorous moments (Roger’s new neighbor, Harold, is George Wendt of Cheers fame, bringing some additional comic relief to the film).

Where House really shines, though, is the creature effects.  The ex-wife-turned-hag is terrifyingly hideous.  Big Ben looks like the cover of an Iron Maiden album.  The monster-in-the-closet is particularly gruesome.  The creepy gremlin kids are never shown for long, as they are running around the house, but they are scary—especially their sinister eyes.

House II: The Second Story

House II: The Second Story is tonally much different from the original.  It really ramps up the comedy, while still preserving attention to detail in the creature effects.  The story involves two buddies, Jesse and Charlie, who decide to move into (and party in) an ancestral home in Jesse’s family.  They bring along their girlfriends, and commence to throw a party.

Before the partying, though, Jesse and Charlie discover a photograph of Jesse’s great-great-grandfather holding a crystal skull with jewels for eyes.  Naturally, they decide to defile Jesse’s great-great-grandfather’s grave, figuring he was probably buried with the skull.

When they do dig up the grave, a corpse attacks them.  It turns out the corpse is Jesse’s ancestor, Gramps—the very same man from the picture!  Gramps is dismayed that his body has not been rejuvenated by the skull, but quickly forgets about it, as he’s happy to be up and moving at 170-years old.  Gramps parties with the boys, then regales them with hours of tales of the Old West.

Among the tales is the story of the house, which is constructed from the stones of an Aztec temple.  Gramps implores the boys to protect the house and the skull.  When the skull is placed on a mantel in the center of the house, it shines, apparently opening up the house as a portal to other times and dimensions.

That leads to all types of hijinks—pre-historic at first.  A caveman (played by the stunt coordinator, Kane Hodder) punches Gramps and grabs the skulls, and the two boys run into a room that has become jungle.  While there, they bring back a caterpillar-puppy and a baby pterodactyl, who become new pets for the gang.

After getting the skull back from the caveman, the boys then have to retrieve it from a group of Aztec warriors who are about to perform a ritual sacrifice on a babe.

In the midst of all of these shenanigans, there is a massive, 1980s-style Halloween party going on, complete with Bill Maher playing, essentially, himself—a smarmy ass.  I did a double-take, but it’s amazing how Maher was just as beady-eyed and condescending then as he is now.

The Verdict

These are two very different movies.  House II is almost relentlessly goofy—like Weekend at Bernie’s, but with monsters and interdimensional foolishness (there’s a great scene where an electrician comes over and notes that “what you have here is a hole into another dimension”).  I love that kind of wackiness, but it’s not for everyone.

On the other hand, House is far spookier and serious in tone.  It actually took me a moment to realize that there was a comedic quality to House.  Much of that has to do with the William Katt‘s portrayal of Roger Cobb, who begins the film as a very sober-minded author looking for some peace and quiet, but who has to act goofy in certain scenarios.  The first time he’s acting comedically, I completely missed it.

Objectively, House is the better movie.  The script is very good, and the creatures are so well done, they’re terrifying.  But House II is not without its charm.  The stuff with Gramps caring for a baby caterpillar-dog is silly, as is the interdimensional hopping, but it’s a fun movie.  It doesn’t take itself seriously at all.

If you have to pick just one, though, check out House.  I actually think it would have been better without the comedic elements, and just played straight as a horror—and a drama.  The subplot about Roger losing his son is really well done, and explains much of Roger’s current predicament when the film opens.

Either way, happy viewing!

—TPP

9 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: House (1986) and House II: The Second Story (1987)

    • Let me know what you think! The creature effects are the best parts.

      Also, Shelby was in town this weekend, but we spent the entire time at the State Fair and the South Carolina football game. _Bell, Book, and Candle_ will have to wait for Halloween weekend, I think—perfect timing!

      Like

      • Oh, Port. You watched the whole entire movie? “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din”.

        How do I loathe this; let me count the ways. 1. George Wendt is the best actor in the entire movie. How sad is that? 2. I hate movies that are too cheap to pay the license fee for the music they’re going to feature. 3. The ‘demon’ of the ex-wife was an almost body double for the ‘thing’ in the library in Ghost Busters. 4. William Katz couldn’t act his way out of a tv series, let alone a full length movie.

        What did I love about this movie? The actress playing his ex-wife gave her best acting performance ever as she played a corpse. That was so mighty fine acting – for her, anyway.

        ll is NOT an option.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, I agree that George Wendt was the highlight of the film. Now that you mention, the hag really does look like the creature from _Ghostbusters_. D’oh!

        Katz really is a poor actor, especially with the goofy bits, but he has that kind of made-for-TV seriousness that worked well enough for the more serious side of the character.

        Remember, the sequel is a completely different movie—not truly a sequel. That said, it is the inferior of the two, so if you didn’t like this one, you probably won’t like the second one.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. You wonder sometimes why some people even bother making a sequel. I’ve seen some horrific firsts that came with follow ups and wonder who the hell bought a ticket in the first place. Tina and I recently watched a few movies from the horror company, After Dark. Some were middling to below average but one was so shocking we presumed it must have been a sequel – it wasn’t. For anyone vaguely interested, the horror sequel, especially those in the slasher genre will have more deaths, more gore and more nudity. I’m no puritan but I never understood the ‘need’ for nudity in any film, never mind the horror genre but there it is. Anyway, I digress.

    The film we watched was called Hatchet, where a crazed and deformed lunatic with an axe butchers everyone from start to end. It started with superfluous nudity and continued through the movie, as limbs flew off and idiots ran around screaming. From our perspective, none of the characters were worth saving and so we watched every single character fall all the way to the cliched end of the movie. Shockingly, this film has sequels. I’ll never understand it. Different horses, different courses.

    Of all the horror movies I’ve seen in my time, I can’t think of a single one that merited a sequel. Maybe the use of the word ‘merit’ there was the wrong one. Halloween was a good film but I don’t think a sequel was needed, just as Hostel and Saw were good first films but would have been better as stand alone films.

    I’ll have a look at House but if it’s terrible, I won’t be watching the second.

    Thanks, Port, as always. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • What’s interesting in the case of these films is that they are sequels in name only (SINO?): the two films are completely different, other than the common thread of taking place in enchanted/haunted houses. _House_ is more traditionally scary, with some goofy elements; _House II_ is a zany 80s buddy comedy with some spooky elements.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Edit: Hatchet, I’m informed, wasn’t After Dark. I got mixed up there, after watching a few After Dark movies. It IS crap though. ;\

    Liked by 2 people

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