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Home | Film Review: House II: The Second Story (1987)

Film Review: House II: The Second Story (1987)


The new owner of a sinister house gets involved with reanimated corpses and demons searching for an ancient Aztec skull with magic powers.


Director: Ethan Wiley
Starring: Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Royal Dano and John Ratzenberger

The original House was an underrated gem of a film that married the clever narrative of films like Jacob’s Ladder with the outrageous campiness of Evil Dead II, long before either film was released. It borrowed heavily from films released around that era, using tried and tested motifs in order to make a quick and easy sell. And while the entire film played out like nothing more than a pastiche of 80s horror, it was so much fun that it didn’t really matter so much.

House II is similar in many respects, but it abandons the horror elements altogether, replacing them instead with childish fantasy. Claymation dinosaurs, animal side-kicks and a zombie prospector from the Old West are just some of the spectacles on show. And while it’s still as much fun as the original, it screams out for a much more naïve audience than the original was aimed at.

After inheriting an old mansion from his parents, Jesse, played endearingly enough by Arye Gross, moves in, along with his girlfriend and best friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark). While exploring the rooms, he discovers an old photo of his grandfather holding a Crystal Skull. What follows is a nonsensical parade of spectacle, fantasy and adventure (and it still manages to make more sense than the 4th Indiana Jones movie).

House-II-The-Second-Story-1987-4In order to illustrate my main point, I’d like to describe a scene that occurs late in the film. Jesse approaches a window and sees, on the other side, a place he needs to be. He pulls the curtain aside fully and then, after a moments hesitation, dives headfirst through the window.

No one is chasing Jesse at this point, and it seems fairly likely that the window itself would have hinges. And even if it didn’t, there were plenty of chairs about with which he could have broken the glass first and saved himself a lot of effort. The point is, House II has a paranoid fear of boring its audience, so it sacrifices dull elements like logic and common sense in favour of flashy noises and special effects. Admittedly, this is the case with a lot of horror or fantasy films, but whereas many of those films step over the line gingerly, House II drives over it on a motorbike while swigging a bottle of cheap whiskey.

Everything happens at breakneck speed, with the characters barely being introduced before the Indian graveyard is discovered and all hell breaks loose.
A ridiculous amount of time is spent trying to find the Crystal Skull, which inexplicably keeps Jesse’s zombie grandfather alive. Yet, no one ever takes the time out from their adventures to consider just how utterly ridiculous that kind of motivation is!

As a result, the only people who are given any real time to shine are Gross and Stark, with the rest of the cast sidelined because they refuse to hop on the wacky adventure express. In fact, it gets so childish and unrefined towards the end that an alternative ending in which Jesse has had a nervous breakdown and everything we see is his fever induced hallucinations wouldn’t be all that unusual.

However, as mentioned, the fun is in the spectacle, and House II only occasionally struggles in keeping your brain anaesthetised. Jesse and Charlie play off each other nicely, they’re likable characters and their banter is fairly amusing throughout. However, it’s John Ratzenberger, best known for voicing Hamm in the Toy Story movies, who steals the show, making a brief cameo in an inspired role as Bill the electrician. Nuanced, wise-cracking and lending a perfect air of mystery to the film as a whole, it’s a real shame that he doesn’t feature more, as he would have balanced out the group nicely. In an ideal world, he would replace Gramps as the central comic relief, because the Old Prospector in modern day is such a clichéd gag, they were probably making that same joke shortly after the car was invented.

Overall, House II takes an almost identical approach to that of the original, but it replaces camp horror for just plain camp. The lack of logic is far more apparent, but if you can forgive that, as well as the utter lack of scares, it still remains a mindlessly fun way to spend an evening with your kids (provided your kids are a little bit strange).

Bonus Materials

  • Brand new 2K restorations of House and House II: The Second Story
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • 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
  • Audio commentary with director Steve Miner, producer Sean S. Cunningham, actor William Katt and screenwriter Ethan Wiley
  • Ding Dong, You’re Dead! The Making of House – brand new documentary featuring interviews with Steve Miner, Sean S. Cunningham, Ethan Wiley, story creator Fred Dekker, stars William Katt, Kay Lenz, and George Wendt, composer Harry Manfredini, special m
  • Stills Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • 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, speci
  • Stills Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

House  II (1987) is now available from MVD Entertainment as a 2 pack bluray set



  1. SteelScissorsInYourSkull

    I understand this film’s flaws but that doesn’t stop me from liking it a lot. This is a very goofy film but it’s also a lot of lighthearted fun. I also give it kudos for taking the original and putting a different spin on things as opposed to simply rehashing what came before.

  2. Solid review. I agree that the actors are fun to watch and the antics are silly but still enjoyable. I actually kind of liked the pace of this one better than the original – it didn’t hang together as a three act narrative as well but the random transitions from one wild sequence to the next almost unrelated wild sequence kept things hopping. I will say, though that your comment about John Ratzenberger being best known from Toy Story made me chuckle. I mean come on – he was Norm in the sitcom Cheers! That’s one of the most enduringly memorable characters in TV history!

  3. Correction – meant that Ratzenberger played Cliff Claven in Cheers.


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