Home Page  
 
 

House: Two Stories
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English PCM Mono
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • 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
  • HOUSE
  • 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
  • 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
  • Stills Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

House: Two Stories

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Steve Miner, Ethan Wiley
1986 | 180 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $59.95 | Series: Arrow Video
MVD Visual

Release Date: April 11, 2017
Review Date: April 18, 2017

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

Share:

SYNOPSIS

Step inside, we've been expecting you! At long-last, Arrow Video is proud to present the first two instalments of hit horror franchise House on Blu-ray for the first time!

In the original House, William Katt (Carrie) stars as Roger Cobb, a horror novelist struggling to pen his next bestseller. When he inherits his aunt's creaky old mansion, Roger decides that he's found the ideal place in which to get some writing done. Unfortunately, the house's monstrous supernatural residents have other ideas...

Meanwhile, House II: The Second Story sees young Jesse (Arye Gross) moving into an old family mansion where his parents were mysteriously murdered years before. Plans for turning the place into a party pad are soon thwarted by the appearance of Jesse's mummified great-great-grandfather, his mystical crystal skull and the zombie cowboy who'll stop at nothing to lay his hands on it!

From the team that brought you Friday the 13th, House and House II are era-defining horror classics - now newly restored and loaded with brand new extras!


PICTURE

Arrow Video presents the horror/comedies House and House II on Blu-ray in their new box set House: Two Stories. Each film is presented on individual dual-layer discs, also receiving their own separate keepcases and artwork. Each film has been given a new 2K restoration, scanned from 35mm interpositives, and are encoded at 1080p/24hz high-definition in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

There are a couple of notable problems (though I’ll admit I didn’t notice them until they were pointed out elsewhere) but looking past that aspect for the moment the digital presentations are really astounding. Admittedly the image may not be as sharp as it probably could be, more than likely a due to source materials (scanning a negative would have more than likely improved this aspect), but I was still quite impressed with level of detail available. The creature effects are especially good; all blurry and lacking definition on the old VHS and cable television broadcasts I had seen in the past, all of those little nuances come through far better here, with every little texture, especially the slimy ones, looking clearer and more natural. There is a slight, unfortunate side-effect to this improvement in detail, and that is the effects and make-up do look a bit more rubbery and latex-y. Still, it’s nice to finally see all the little details on that closet creature in the first film more clearly.

The restoration work has also cleaned up the image nicely, and very little damage is present, with the more glaring issues that remain primarily isolated to some of the optical effects, which get a bit heavier in the second film (like the rotting stop-motion horse). Colours look really good as well, bright and nicely saturated, and the black levels are also very strong, though there are a handful of moments in both films where shadow details can get lost.

While the restorations ultimately are really good, there is an issue related to the framing. I’ll admit right off I actually didn’t notice anything at first until it was pointed out on other sites that you can make out a crew member’s arm in one shot and the edges of a set in another (at least in the first film). I honestly didn’t notice it until I went back and looked at the scenes in question and yep, sure enough, they are there. This might suggest the framing is off throughout, though I have to say that a majority of the film looks fine. In the commentary that accompanies the first film (which was, along with the second, more than likely recorded for an older DVD edition) the participants point out they had framing issues on previous home video releases, which were open-matte, where you could see dolly tracks and (again) the edges of sets. Those particular issues are at least gone as far as I can tell though it’s curious that we now get a new set of issues that (apparently, since I haven’t seen them) don’t exist on previous widescreen releases of the films.

I can’t say where the framing issues come from, but it’s a bit of disappointment, especially since the rest of the presentation looks so wonderful.

(Please note that this release is technically exclusive to North America and, due to rights issues, only includes the first two films in the series. The UK release from Arrow actually includes all four films.)

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

AUDIO

Arrow includes a fairly wide array of audio options, at least for the first film: House comes with three audio tracks including an LPCM 1.0 mono track, an LPCM 2.0 stereo track, and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. House II comes with an LCPM 2.0 stereo track and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.

I found all of the tracks pleasing enough for what they are so ultimately it will come down to personal preference. The mono track on the first House film is mixed nicely, managing to deliver some decent range and fidelity, though nothing spectacular. The stereo track still sounds a bit monaural in nature but the score and some effects are spread out.

The 5.1 track, though, is the one I preferred. Fidelity is more natural and range is a bit wider. Effects and music are spread out more with some noticeable direction and movement between the speakers. Bass is also effective but never overbearing.

The second film’s soundtracks are mixed similarly, at least in some of the more action-packed scenes I compared, but the 5.1 again gets a bit more aggressive in splitting and directing audio to specific speakers. Bass is also rather good when called for.

Ultimately I enjoyed the 5.1 tracks so will probably stick with them but I love that Arrow includes the multiple options for the purists, and they all sound clean and clear.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Arrow packs on a few supplements over the two titles, with each film first getting their own audio commentary. The first film features a group commentary with director Steve Miner, producer Sean Cunningham, writer Ethan Wiley, and actor William Katt, while the second film’s track features just Wiley and Cunningham. I’m guessing in both cases these are the same tracks available on the Image DVDs from many, many years ago (which I haven’t seen), with this guess being based on the comments about previous home video releases on the first film, along with a comment by Wiley during the commentary for the second film, where he refers to his “recent” directorial effort, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, released straight-to-video back in 1998.

I don’t know why I wasn’t looking forward to these tracks but I found myself enjoying them. I think I was figuring the tracks would be big goof-offs for the participants but they do take this opportunity to talk about their respective films rather seriously, with some laughs and decent anecdotes thrown about. The first commentary is really technical, getting into the surprisingly lengthy (or at least convoluted) history of the film’s production, which worked its way from a more typical horror movie to the comedy/horror hybrid it would eventually become. They then get into details about the effects work, working with a limited budget, and then the film’s release. A lot of the material covered here is admittedly covered in the new documentary that is included in this release but the advantage of the track is you do get more details about specific scenes

The second track—which features only two of the participants from the track for the first film—isn’t as good admittedly, as it feels like the two really have less to say about this particular film, though I was interested in at least the development process that they do get into. Though the film still shares the central conceit of the first film about a house holding a variety of evils, it’s not directly related to the first in any way despite the same people responsible for the first being involved with this one, and hearing why this is the case proved fascinating (the included documentary makes mention that the idea was similar to the current television series American Horror Story and its seasons, where each film in this case would be its own thing). As this track goes on, as I mentioned previously, the two go silent more often and look for things to comment on, but the first half proves to be fascinating.

Arrow then includes new making-of documentaries for each film, Ding-Dong, You’re Dead! for House, running 66-minutes, and then It’s Getting Weirder for House II, running 57-minutes, each featuring a number of members from the cast and crew for both films, including (but not limited to) Wiley, Cunningham, Miner, writer Fred Dekker, effects man Chris Walas, and actors William Katt, Kay Lenz, George Wendt, Arye Gross and Jonathan Stark.

Both documentaries do repeat some details found in both commentaries but I found them to be enjoyable features, better than your average talking-heads pieces. There’s a bit more behind the development of each film and we get perspectives from more participants, the most important of which comes from Dekker who was missing from the commentary tracks. The documentary for the first film does contextualize it a bit more in relation to the Vietnam War, which might help newcomers/young’uns understand where the film was coming from initially.

The documentary for the first film is a good one but I was surprised to find I enjoyed the making-of for the second film quite a bit more, if only for the openness and honesty of its participants. That’s not to say the makers thought they were making an undisputed classic with the first film as they willingly acknowledge its short-comings, but they seem more inclined in the second piece to admit that there were a lot of bad ideas in the second film (Wiley right off states he wishes he had had more time to develop the script). The “caterpuppy” is, not surprisingly, the most polarizing element of the film, some liking it, others not, and Walas generally seems displeased with a lot of the puppet work in the film, but he admits he did what he could with the budget he had. But everybody still found it a fun experience and other than its poor box office (it opened during a very competitive summer) I didn’t get the idea anybody had any real regrets.

Most important, though, is that both documentaries did increase my appreciation for the films a little bit after the participants explain they saw the films, particularly the second one, as “gateway” horror films for kids, and despite the first maybe being a little more intense for kids (and an “R” rating) I can see where they’re coming from, especially since the films did appeal to me more when I was younger: in comparison to other horror films from the time they have a lot of the same elements but are, undeniably, goofier.

(I’ll also point out here that the end credits for the first film’s documentary feature its participants acknowledging the possibility of a “reboot” for the first film.)

Arrow next includes vintage making-of material for both films. House II comes with a simple 15-minute EPK that is nothing more than the promotional piece it was intended to be, but it has the bonus of featuring interviews with Royal Dano and John Ratzenberger, the latter of whom I’m surprised didn’t show up in the documentary for the second film since Wendt did (limiting it to former Cheers cast members).

The first film gets a better vintage feature in a 24-minute episode from the television program ”The Making of,” which offers a look at the film’s effects work and includes interviews with members of the cast and crew. I’ll admit there isn’t anything especially revelatory about the feature, especially for anyone familiar with how horror movies, or movies in general, are made, but it’s great watching how old-school special effects were done over modern computer effects: there is something especially fun in watching garden tools hanging from fishing line attacking an actor. Arrow also includes the entire episode, which ends by teasing about the next episode that will focus on Tobe Hooper’s Invaders from Mars.

Each film then comes with its own respective galleries presenting production and promotional photos, along with posters and home video art (Denmark’s poster for House is especially curious). Each gallery is presented as a video slide-show with the film’s score accompanying it. We then get trailers (three for the first, one for the second) and TV spots (three for the first and one for the second) closing off each disc.

Though they’re not stacked edition I felt each film delivered some entertaining supplements, but the best aspect to this box set is the included hardbound book called The House Companion. As some may know, Arrow is releasing the entire House series, consisting of four films, in the UK, but due to rights restrictions in North America, were only able to release the first two films here. I figured that Arrow would probably limit the book to cover only the first two films for the North American release but this isn’t the case: they actually include material for all four films and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the exact same book in the UK box set. The 148-page book features articles related to each film in the series by Simon Barber and also features a number of production photos, poster art, reprints of press materials, and cast and crew bios. It’s a really terrific addition, the articles nicely researched and all fascinating to read.

Though Arrow has put together a very splendid box set here the knowledge that there is “more” out there (since Arrow is releasing a set with all four films in the UK) does dampen this otherwise impressive set a tiny bit. It is possible rights restrictions could have limited it but it would have been a nice gesture to maybe at least include a bonus disc here featuring content about the other films to make up a little bit for it. At the very least, though, I’m very happy Arrow still includes the full book and the other content we do get (which includes reversible artwork for the individual films that feature the original poster art on the other side) is all terrific, delivered in a great package. For fans of the films (at least the first two) this set should still please them.

8/10

CLOSING

Despite the lack of parts III and IV (again, this was out of Arrow’s control) I think North American fans should be very pleased with this set. It’s a very handsome looking release, presenting two solid restorations and a nice selection of supplements, including a great hardbound book. It comes very highly recommended.




Share: 



Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca  




Join our Facebook Group (requires Facebook account)

This site is not affiliated with The Criterion Collection