House 2: The Second Story (1987)
Back of the box...
“Jesse and his girlfriend inherit a mysterious family mansion and soon discover that his 170-year-old great-great-grandfather has been brought back from the dead by the supernatural powers of an ancient Aztec skull. But when the skull is stolen and Grampa turns into a party animal, Jesse and his friends must travel through time to get it back. Now, with the help of an electrician familiar with alternate dimensions, a sleazy record company executive, automatic weapons, zombie cowboys, a confused caveman and some very odd monsters, this ultimate HOUSE party gets totally out of control.”
Director: Ethan Wiley
Starring: Arye Gross, Royal Dano, John Ratzenberger, Bill Maher, Amy Yasbeck
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Continuing the Friday the 13th meets 80’s sitcom theme from the first film, House II: The Second Story features the same producer and composer, and a return from Kane Hodder who this time doesn’t just do stunts, he has a role (he’s the guy in the gorilla suit). As for our 80’s sitcom representative, we trade out Norm Peterson (George Wendt) for Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger), who plays Bill the electrician and adventurer, who, similarly to Wendt’s role in the previous film, is not on camera nearly as much as you’d like. House II also stars Bill Maher, Royal Dano, Amy Yasbeck, and features the debut of Devin DeVasquez, the limber-bodied seductress we know from Society. Famous voice talent Frank Welker, whose noteworthy roles are too long to list, also worked on the film. It was traces of his Razar (TMNT 2: The Secret of the Ooze) and Dr. Claw (Inspector Gadget) we heard in his House II characters that clued us into his involvement and made us race to IMDB to confirm.
Jesse (Ayre Gross) moves into an old family mansion with his girlfriend Kate (Lar Park Lincoln), and are soon joined by friends for a housewarming party. While going through old books and family photos in the basement, Jesse stumbles upon a mystery: his grandfather, an old west outlaw, apparently discovered a crystal skull with his partner in crime, Slim Reeser. The two had a falling out over said skull and Jesse’s grandfather ended up hiding it away from Slim. Jesse and his friend Charlie suspect that the crystal skull was one of legend with untold powers capable of unlocking the mysteries of the universe and bringing eternal life to those who possessed it, and now they want to find it. Upon learning of a Mayan practice of burying people with their weapons and jewels, they decide to dig up Jesse’s grandfather’s grave to see if he followed a similar practice. Their suspicions about the skull and the ritual are confirmed as they find the old outlaw still alive in his coffin, crystal skull in tow. After some obligatory fish-out-of-water wackiness involving sports cars and drinking down by the river, things go really wrong as evil time travelers and undead cowboys come to steal the skull. The attacks start during a Halloween party so no one is the wiser to the dangerous strangers among them. Now it’s up to Jesse and Charlie to follow the skull through time and steal it back.
House II: The Second Story is a silly 80’s adventure movie seemingly only marketed as a horror movie because, well, so was the first movie. The characters are a lot of fun, the lead is much more likeable than the first film, and Jonathan Stark’s character Charlie seems like he might have been Jim Carrey’s inspiration for Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber. Royal Dano gets a lot of laughs as Gramps and while Bill Maher doesn’t have much that’s funny to say, we enjoy just seeing him act (side note: if you also like seeing Bill Maher act, check out the Murder She Wrote episode titled "Good-Bye Charlie"). It’s clear they had a good time with the visual effects in this movie which features dinosaurs, a bat demon thing, and a Caterpuppy! Yes, a big caterpillar with a puppy head. There was also some fun had in promoting the movie as well. Caterpuppy figurines and a crystal skull night lights were sent to movie theaters to hand out with tickets and there was also a comic book adaptation of the film released by Marvel a few months after the movie.
So how did all of these elements come together to, almost 30 years later, have 0% on Rotten Tomatoes? Well, the movie wasn’t exactly praised by critics in 1987 either, but movies like this rarely are. As for Rotten Tomatoes, who also gave TerrorVision 0%, we imagine for such a review to exist there must be a serious lack of understanding in the appeal of the camp horror genre. You might be missing the point if you’re judging these films by the same criteria as you would an Academy Award contender. Screen Rant posted an article titled “Why Bad Horror Movies are Good for You” that might more clearly argue our point.
If you enjoyed the first two House movies, there are others! Like many of these horror franchises, something happens when they reach Europe and suddenly their name changes. The Horror Show, released in 1989, had it’s name changed to House III when it was released in Europe and this lead the makers of the real House III to change the title to House IV. We haven’t seen either of those movies but The Horror Show sounds very similar (and released six months prior) to Wes Craven’s Shocker and House IV is a direct sequel to the first House movie.