Review: House – The Complete Collection
Blu-ray & DVD: House – The Complete Collection (1985 – 1992)
House: Roger Cobb (William Katt in a role which he describes as one of his all time favourites) is a horror novelist who is struggling to write a follow-up to his previous best seller. He inherits his Great Aunt’s old house (where she killed herself) and attempts to write a novel in solitude, while also dealing with the memories of the strange disappearance of his son and the resulting estrangement with his wife. His solitude doesn’t last long due to his overly friendly neighbour Harold (George Wendt) and the strange alternate worlds that exists within the house that sends supernatural forces to scare him, including Roger’s old Vietnam war buddy ‘Big Ben’ (Richard Moll).
House has long been a favourite of mine since first viewing it on VHS many years ago, and it is a genre movie that is much loved by horror fans. Eschewing the ‘hack and slash’ mentality that had prevailed and become popular in horror movies since the late 1970’s, House injected a dose of humour into the proceedings that lightened the tone, yet still gave scope for jumps and screams.
The practical make-up effects are fantastic and range from the horrific sight of Big Ben with his rotting torso and ribs on show, to the more comedic scare of when Roger’s wife Kay (Sandy Sinclair) suddenly changes into a screeching monster/woman akin to a female reject from Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
As mentioned in one of the superb special features on this collection, House is the perfect movie to introduce your children to the horror genre, but don’t let that fool you that this isn’t a movie that adults love too.
House II: Jesse (Arye Gross) moves into an old family mansion where his parents were mysteriously murdered and once again (in a similar vein to House) alternate worlds open up that deprive Jesse of the normality that he wanted. His Great Grandfather ‘Gramps’ (Royal Dano) appears and so begins an adventure where a crystal skull has to be protected from a zombified cowboy and various hazard filled worlds inhabited by dinosaurs, Aztec warriors and much more.
House II ups the comedy element from the original movie and features a huge range of latex monsters which run the gamut between mildly scary to completely hilarious. While not the classic that the original is, Jesse is a likeable enough character to care for what happens to him and Royal Dano’s performance as Gramps is the emotional heart of the movie.
John Ratzenberger steals the scenes that he is in as an electrician/adventurer, and one of the special features lays to rest an often thought casting decision that the House movies would keep putting someone from Cheers into the movies.
House III: Detective Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen) finally captures sadistic serial killer Max Jenke (Brion James) who is sent to the electric chair for execution. His death however is just the beginning of an ongoing nightmare for McCarthy whose home life is shattered by the reoccurring visage of Jenke both in his home and in his nightmares. Can nothing stop Jenke from killing and getting vengeance for his death?
Released in America as The Horror Show, it was retitled House III for international distribution and thereby making a logistical conundrum for producer Sean S. Cunningham regarding the titles for any future House movies.
This may be controversial, but House III has always been my favourite of the series. The combination of Henriksen and James, 2 actors whom I’ve always admired, plus a kickass serial killer storyline complete with amazing and over the top practical effects, constantly reels me in to its open and bloodstained arms. Even the flashback where McCarthy comforts his police partner as he’s screaming in pain after having his arms chopped off and you can clearly see both arms behind his back (even better than the scene in Predator with Carl Weathers) doesn’t spoil the immersion for me.
House IV: William Katt returns (briefly) as Roger Cobb who is killed in a car accident that injuries his wife and paralyses his daughter (yes, he DID have a son in the 1st movie, but throw away all logic as far as this one is concerned). His surviving family move into a house that Roger’s brother wants to sell but all are unaware that it harbours a secret artefact hidden in its basement that begins a series of unnatural events in the house.
The weakest of all the House movies, House IV moves along at a pedestrian pace and is (unsurprisingly) the only movie that Lewis Abernathy directed. Even a singing pizza with the face of Kane Hodder can’t save it from being a disappointing and bland end to what is otherwise an excellent franchise.
This complete collection from Arrow Films is not only an essential purchase for fans of the franchise and/or the horror genre, it is also highly recommended for all movie fans due in most part to its superb set of special features which flesh out the making of each movie in an absolutely fascinating way. Arrow are renowned for always suppling exemplary extras on their releases, but I have to say that the ones in this complete collection had me enthralled from beginning to end.
Do yourselves a favour and purchase the keys to open these Houses. You’ll laugh, you’ll be scared, you’ll be entertained, but you definitely WON’T be disappointed.
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:
- Brand new 2K restorations of all four films
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- The House Companion – limited edition 156-page book featuring new writing on the entire Housefranchise 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 make-up and creature effects artists Barney Burman, Brian Wade, James Belohovek, Shannon Shea, Kirk Thatcher, and Bill Sturgeon, special paintings artists Richard Hescox and William Stout, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
- Stills Gallery
- Theatrical Trailers
HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY
- 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, special make-up & creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
- Stills Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
HOUSE III: THE HORROR SHOW
- Uncut Version, for the first time on Blu-ray!
- Audio commentary with producer Sean S. Cunningham
- The Show Must Go On – interview with actor/stuntman Kane Hodder
- House Mother – interview with actress Rita Taggart
- Slaughter Inc. – brand new featurette with special make-up effects creators Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage
- Stills Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
HOUSE IV: THE REPOSSESSION
- Audio commentary with director Lewis Abernathy
- Home Deadly Home: The Making of House IV– brand new documentary featuring interviews with director Lewis Abernathy, producer Sean S. Cunningham, stars Terri Treas and William Katt, actor/stunt coordinator Kane Hodder, and composer Harry Manfredini
- Still Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from discs kindly supplied by Arrow Films.