10/19/09

Halloween Top 13: The Sequel #13- House 2: The Second Story (1987)

Hello, folks, and welcome to the first of the 13 horrific sequels that I’ll be counting down this year in the Halloween Top 13: The Sequel. I’m starting off with a film that probably isn’t on everyone’s radar as a great sequel, but it’s been a long standing favorite of mine. House II hit home video in 1988 when I was twelve years old, and it was just the perfect mix of horror and comedy that appealed to my wee little mind. Like many things you like when you’re young, this one fell from grace and was replaced by another film. It didn’t come up in my mind until years later when Kevin Williamson name checked it in Scream 2. Unfortunately, the mention it got in Williamson’s film was not that favorable. As I recall, Randy (Jamie Kennedy) is in film class, and the class is debating sequels that are better then the originals. After several well regarded films are mentioned, one kid says, “House II: The Second Story” and everyone groans and throws stuff at him. It made me wonder if I would still like the flick as much as I did when I was a pre-teen. Turns out, no matter what fictional film students say, I still liked House II, and it remains one of my favorite horror comedies.

While Ethan Wiley wrote House 1 and 2, he only directed the second feature. That’s not to say they are related at all. All you need to know going into a House film is that there will be a House and there will be crazy crap going on in it. This time out Jesse (Ayre Gross) inherits a house that’s been in his family for generations, and he and his friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark) start poking around the house looking for a treasure that was supposed to be left there by Jesse’s great-grandpa. When they don’t find anything, they decide it might be hidden in great-grandpa’s grave, and when they dig him up they find a mysterious crystal skull and Gramps (Royal Dano) who’s been kept alive all these years by its power. The three of them retire to the house, but the skull keeps getting stolen and taken into parts of the rooms that mysteriously contain jungles populated by dinosaurs, ancient Aztec temples, and a wild west town where they must face down Slim (Dean Cleverton), the gunfighter that Gramps double crossed long ago.

Before I get into the real craziness of this film, of which there is plenty, I have to talk about the main feature of the film, the titular House. While they don’t show too many exterior shots, the ones they do feature show an incredible gothic style mansion, and I had to know if this place existed. Turns out that it’s located in Los Angeles and is known as the Stimson House. Over the years it’s been owned by a brewer, served as a frat house, housed students of Mount Mary St. Claire’s College, and most recently it has become a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. I wonder if the Sisters know that their nunnery was once the location for the best horror-comedy-western-jungle adventure film ever to grace the screen. Stimson House has also been featured in the films 13 Ghosts (1960) and After Midnight (1989) as well as one episode of the original The Bionic Woman. That episode featured Vincent Price as a guest star, and he liked the creepy acoustics of the home so much he recorded several productions in the house. Most recently it’s popped up as a mortuary on the series Pushing Daisies.

The exterior of the house doesn’t play much into the film, and strangely for a movie called House, the location never becomes a character unto itself. Thankfully, the film is populated with a group of characters that more than makes up for it. Arye Gross plays Jesse a bit like a bargain basement version of John Cusack, but he’s charismatic enough that he doesn’t seem to just be mugging his way through the part. Gross has a recognizable face, but I had to look him up before I could place him. I think I recall him from his supporting roles in the classic ‘80’s comedies Just One of the Guys and Soul Man. He’s still working today and recently he’s appeared in the TV series Dollhouse and Castle. Instantly recognizable to me was his best friend Charlie played by Jonathan Stark. Stark played second banana to Chris Sarandon’s vamp in Fright Night which was one of the selections on last years Halloween Countdown. In House II, Stark was such a perfect fit as the slightly sleazy, gung ho, best friend, and he delivers a lot of the best, and funniest, lines in the film.

The movie also gains a lot from a wide array of supporting characters that populate the film. While he sounds almost just like him, Gramps is not played by the guy who played Uncle Jesse on the Dukes of Hazard. The man behind the zombieish makeup was actually Royal Dano, who had been working as a character actor since 1950. In the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, he started popping up in lots of cult films such as Killer Clowns From Outer Space, Spaced Invaders, Ghoulies II, and The Dark Half. Dano’s Gramps is one of the best parts of the film, and the moments he shares with the part puppy part caterpillar he adopts are infinitely rewatchable to me. House II also features small appearances from Bill Maher as an asshole record executive, John Ratzenburger as an Electrician/ Adventurer, and everyone’s favorite Jason, Kane Hodder, shows up in a gorilla suit.

Now I’m sure there are quite a number of you out there who will think that I’m nuts for including this on my list, but sometimes the movies you love when you’re a kid stick with you and end up entertaining far after they probably should. While some young horror fans might have latched onto a flick like The Monster Squad, I was the odd man out who really liked House II. I even remember having the Marvel Comics adaptation of the film, and I used to pour over it endlessly to relive the comic and “scary” moments of the film. Plus I defy anyone to show me another horror-comedy-western-jungle adventure film. House II will forever be a film that I love for nostalgic reasons, but viewing this flick again, I found it to be campily funny in a way that often hits the spot with me. So give House II a new lease on life and check it out again. Check your brain at the door, kick your feet up, and see a film that centers on a crystal skull without making you want to punch Harrison Ford in the face.



Bugg Rating




As always with the Halloween Top 13, I've been asking you folks to let me know what your favorite sequels are. Today's list comes to you by way of Grey from the Dark Hours Podcast who sent this list in:
Friday the 13 Part 7: The New Blood
Scream 2
Poltergeist 3
28 weeks later
Gremlins 2
Halloween 2
Aliens
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2
Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers
Warlock: The Armageddon
Tremors 2: Aftershocks
Dracula 2: Ascension
Critters 2: The Main Course

That's a great list, and there's a few of those on there you can be sure to look out for in the days to come as we continue to count down to Halloween. Thanks everyone for joining me for this first installment, and I'll be back tomorrow to talk about the horrific selection I've made for Number 12!

8 comments:

  1. Hell yeah, House 2 is great. Horror/comedy is hard to pull off and this one does a good job.

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  2. Just rewatched this recently and have to agree with you, House II is great. In fact, the only real fault I saw in it was that Bill Maher didn't die a horrible and gruesome death.

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  3. jervaise brooke hamsterOctober 19, 2009 at 4:28 PM

    Hey lightning bug, how about a reveiw of "Poltergeist 3", it would be great to hear your thoughts on the legend that is "HEATHER O`ROURKE".

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  4. I'm really glad to see that some other folks like House 2. I thought I was the only one. I would have liked to see Bill die, but hey, I like the guy. I think its funny he went from standup, to smarmy guy in films, to smarmy political guy.

    And snob, there's no fooling me with alternate names. I don't care for any of the Poltergeist films really so don't expect them to show up on the countdown.

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  5. Count me in as loving HOUSE II, it is a wonderful and wild ride.

    And I am still hoping John Ratzenberger will end up starring in a trilogy of films about our favorite Electrician/ Adventurer!

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  6. I like this one as well, its a cheesy good time though I will always prefer the original. That dogapiller will forever be burned in my memory from the first time I saw the flick as a kid

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  7. I saw this many, many, many years ago. I don't really remember much about it, but the pictures bring back a little. I think i enjoyed it?

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  8. I watched House 2 a few weeks back. I 'liked' it. Or at least, I knew I should like it. It had a great attitude and enthusiasm, but the slapstick grew old for after a while.

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