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House: Two Stories (House / House II: The Second Story) – Arrow Video USA (BluRay / DVD Combo) 
Written by: on April 12th, 2017

Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1985 (House), USA, 1987 (House II: The Second Story)
Directors: Steve Miner (House), Ethan Wiley (House II: The Second Story)
Writers: Fred Dekker, Ethan Wiley (Both Films)
Cast: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz, Mary Stavin (House), Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Royal Dano, Bill Maher, John Ratzenberger, Lar Park-Lincoln, Amy Yasbeck, Devin DeVasquez, Jayne Modean (House II: The Second Story)

BluRay released: April 11th, 2017
Approximate running times: 92 minutes (House), 88 minutes (House II: The Second Story)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Rating: R (House), PG-13 (House II: The Second Story)
Sound: LPCM 5.1 English, LPCM Stereo English, LPCM Mono English (House), LPCM 5.1 English, LPCM Stereo English (House II: The Second Story)
Subtitles: English SDH (Both Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $59.95

House: A successful author looking for an isolated place, where he can write his next novel about his experiences in Vietnam. After the untimely death of his grandmother, he moves into her home. And what starts off as the perfectly place to write his novel, quickly takes a turn for the worse, when it becomes apparent that there is something more sinister lurking behind every corner.

House was directed by Steve Miner who’s other notable films include, Friday the 13th Part 2, Friday the 13th Part III, Soul Man and Warlock. Key collaborators on House include, screenwriter Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad), cinematographer Mac Ahlberg (The Seduction, Chained Heat), composer Harry Manfredini (Through the Looking Glass, Friday the 13th) and producer Sean Cunningham (The Last House on the Left, Friday the 13th).

The 1980’s were a great time to be a Horror film fan. There was an influx of Horror films during the 1980’s, including a few films like, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street which spawned several sequels. Content wise, the majority of the Horror films from the 1980’s contained many of the same ingredients, most notably a young attractive cast and a body count mentality to the killers’ modus operandi.

By the middle of the 1980’s the genre was starting to shift away from what had at this point become an all to familiar formula. And one of the examples of a film that went against the grain from this era was House. Everything about this film was unlike what had been popular up to that point in 1980’s Horror cinema.

The premise for House took the haunted house scenario and turned it on its head. Instead of a narrative that was filled with ghosts that go bump in the night. The narrative keep you on your toes with the way it that it had guessing what was lurking behind very door and in some instances what was not lurking behind said door. This approach allows the film do build and maintain a high level of tension as things build to a fever pitch by the film’s finale.

From a production stand point, there is not area where this film does not deliver. The visuals are full of atmosphere and they do a superb job reinforcing the mood. The narrative is perfectly paced with each new twist given an ample amount of time to resonate. The characters are well defined and the cast are very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance being William Katt (Carrie, Big Wednesday) in the role of Roger Cobb, an author in search of place he can create without constant interruption. Besides being tormented by what is lurking throughout the house, this character is also dealing with divorce and the loss of his son who went missing at the house he is now staying at. Ultimately House is a very satisfying mix of suspense and mayhem.

House II: The Second Story: A young man who was adopted at birth moves into a house that he inherited from his biological parents.

House II: The Second Story was co-written and directed by Ethan Wiley who co-wrote the screenplay for House. And besides Ethan Wiley, other key House contributors who return for this sequel include, cinematographer Mac Ahlberg, composer Harry Manfredini and producer Sean Cunningham.

Instead of resting on its loreals, House II: The Second Story goes in a completely different direction tone wise then its predecessor. Where House was more rooted in creating scary moments, House II: The Second Story is more of an adventure film. Another area where House II: The Second Story differs from its predecessor is the way its uses humor.

The basic concept is carried over for this sequel. And the narrative is filled with many outlandish set pieces involving the main character and his best friend who encounter a wide variety of characters who are trying to take a crystal skull that belongs the to the protagonist grandfather.

Visually the film is at its best during the moments where the main characters are forced to go into other dimensions to retrieve the crystal skull. When it comes to the special effects, many of them have not aged well. Performance wise the cast are all very good in their respective roles. Ultimately House II: The Second Story is fun thrill ride, that challenges the all too familiar trend of sequels retreading familiar ground.

The BluRay:

Each film comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay and both films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Both films have been given new 2k scans from their 35mm interpositives. The sources used for both films is in excellent shape. Colors look accurate, details look crisp and black levels remain strong throughout. It should be noted that the transfer for House II: The Second Story does look at times softer and that there are issues with both films in regards to their framing. In their previous home video releases, they were framed in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, while this release presents both films in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This difference in ratios opens up more information on the side of the frames.

House comes with three audio mixes, a LPCM 5.1 mix in English, a LPCM stereo mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in English. House II: The Second Story comes with one audio option, a LPCM 5.1 mix in English. All of the audio mixes are in very good shape. Dialog is clear, everything sounds balanced and robust. Both of the LPCM 5.1 mixes do superb job with the more ambient sounds, the score sounds robust and range wise both of these audio mixes sound dynamic. Included with both films are removable English SDH subtitles.

Extras for House include, a stills gallery, 3 T.V. spots (1 minute 31 seconds), a teaser for the film (1 minute 27 seconds), two trailers for the film (59 seconds and 1 minute 28 seconds), a vintage making of featurette (23 minutes 58 seconds), a documentary titled Ding Dong, You’re Dead! (66 minutes 39 seconds) and an informative audio commentary with screenwriter Ethan Wiley, actor William Katt, producer Sean Cunningham and director Steve Miner.

Topics discussed in the extra titled Ding Dong, You’re Dead! include, the genesis of the film, the evolution of the premise, the cast production design, special effects, cinematographer Mac Ahlberg, Steve Miner, Kane Hodder / Stunts, the score, audience reaction and their thoughts about the film.

Extras for House II: The Second Story include, a stills gallery, a T.V. spot (33 seconds), a trailer for the film (1 minute 24 seconds), a vintage EPK (14 minutes 58 seconds), a documentary titled It’s Getting Weirder! (57 minutes 38 seconds) and an informative audio commentary Ethan Wiley and Sean Cunningham.

Topics discussed in the extra titled It’s Getting Weirder! the genesis of the film, why they decided to the make House II: The Second Story a standalone film, how the tone of the film is drastically different from its predecessor, the limitations of the special effects, the cast and their thoughts about the performances, creating the caterpuppy and other creatures that appear in the film, Kane Hodder / stunts, the score and their thoughts about the film.

Rounding out the extras are reversible cover art for both films and a one hundred and forty-eight-page booklet titled The House Companion written by Simon Barber. This booklet contains essays and press materials for all four House films. Overall House and House II: The Second Story get a first-rate release from Arrow Video that comes with a wealth of extras.

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