After having moderate success at the box office as well as receiving above average reviews, it seemed to be a no brainer for ‘New World Pictures’ to give the go ahead for a sequel to ‘House’ which starred William Katt. Well before you could say “Roger Cobb”, ‘House II: The Second Story’ was released in 1987 which is only a year after its predecessor. Some people may have hoped that this movie would continue the story of Roger Cobb and the aftermath of what took place in the first movie. Maybe ‘Big Ben’ would return (again) and exact his revenge like he’d promised before Roger blew him to pieces or maybe we’d get to see Roger finally finish his novel about his time in Vietnam; alas none of this was to be. House II has barely any relation to the first movie and instead creates an entirely original premise with certain recognizable elements from the original thrown in but one thing for certain, you wouldn’t need to see House before seeing House II.
The movie opens with a seriously awesome 80s synthesized soundtrack as we see a man and a woman handing over their baby to be taken away in a car; much to the distress of the mother. The couple make their way back inside the huge gothic mansion when later that night the sound of cowboy spurs are heard coming from upstairs which prompts the woman to ask “could it be him”. The man attempts to reassure her that it’s nothing but takes a gun for good measure (that’s reassuring) and they make their way upstairs to investigate. I have to once again give credit to the soundtrack here as it does a fantastic job of building tension and it does this to great effect throughout the movie. The couple eventually make their way into the study when suddenly the door slams behind them and a dark figure appears in the distance. The figure tells them that he wants a skull of some sort but the man denies having it only to attempt to get a shot at the figure which leads him to be shot himself, the woman attempts to flee but is gunned down before she has a chance.
25 years later Jesse (Arye Gross) and his girlfriend Kate move into the old mansion which has been in Jesse’s family for generations. They are soon joined by Jesse’s goofy friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark), who brought along his diva girlfriend Lana (Amy Yasbeck), in the hopes of being discovered by Kate, who works for a record company. Jesse has returned to this old family mansion after his parents were murdered when he was a baby. While going through old things in the basement, Jesse finds a picture of his great-great grandfather (and namesake) in front of a Mayan temple holding a crystal skull with jewels in the eyes. In the background is a man Jesse learns is Slim Razor, a former partner of his great-great grandfather turned bitter enemy after a disagreement over who would get to keep the skull.
Jessie and Charlie decide to exhume the deceased only to find the 170 year-old man still alive and in possession of the precious artefact.
However, after replacing the relic in its rightful place in the McLaughlin mansion, a barrage of ancient peoples including Aztecs, warriors, and eventually Gramps’s gun-slinging archenemy begin appearing in hopes of obtaining the skull.
One of my favourite moments in the movie is just after Jesse and Charlie have returned from rescuing the skull from a cave man in the Jurassic era, they return with a baby pterodactyl and a caterpillar-dog (you read that right). Bill (John Ratzenberger), an electrician and “part-time adventurer”, arrives to inspect the house’s old wiring. While seemingly just there to waste their time, he pulls a short-sword from his tool case and leads the boys through “one of those time-portal things…you see these all the time in these old houses.” In the mystic past, the three rescue a Mexican virgin who was about to be sacrificed, who seems to like Jesse but throws things at Charlie, It’s definitely one of the most entertaining parts of the movie as Bill is just hilarious.
One of the things I mentioned that I really loved about the original was how it successfully blended horror and comedy. Although House II starts off seeming like a horror it eventually turns into a fully-fledged comedy/adventure and becomes much more light hearted once the character of Gramps is introduced. I really enjoyed the idea of different beings coming from different dimensions and universes within the house attempting to steal the skull and while we do get a few I would have liked more, I just felt like it could have been much more interesting if executed differently.
I have to say that I found the whole storyline with Gramps and slim razor slightly confusing. Why was it that Slim razor wanted to skull so badly when he was alive without it? You could say that he wanted it to restore himself instead of being the walking corpse that he is but still. I enjoyed the end scenes in which Slim arrives for the skull because his appearance comes out of nowhere, even if it is slightly comical. The fight between Slim and Jesse is entertaining and the conclusion to the gramps character is quite touching indeed.
There are some seriously dated effects on display and somehow this movie seems to have had an even lower budget than the first movie and looks older for it. Then again, the look and feel of the movie is so synonymous for the time it somehow works and gives it a very 80s B-horror movie feel which is a good thing in my opinion. What did I learn from house II? That a dog mixed with a caterpillar is really damn cute.
House II is very entertaining, I enjoyed the premise surrounding the skull even if it isn’t fully explained or as fleshed out as it could have been. If you enjoy 80’s B horror/comedy/adventure movies then you’ll get what you want with this one.
House II: The Second Story