House II Review: Condemned!
Updated: Apr 17
Dir: Ethan Wiley
Release Date: 1987
“The new owner of a sinister house gets involved with reanimated corpses and demons searching for an ancient Aztec skull with magic powers”
House (1985) blew me away the first time I saw it.
Set in a haunted house, a horror writer sets about exorcising his Vietnam demons by writing a novel about his experiences in the house both his grandma died in and his son vanished in. Turns out the house is quite the mind reader and does a royal mind-fuck job on our poor protagonist.
Filmed with social commentary elements, a small fun cast, jokes and some fun (though maybe dated) special effects it pleased me so much I bought the box set with all of them in.
Which leads us to House 2... Don’t expect any of the things mentioned above.
Noooo sir, we are in comedy territory now so get strapped in!
A young couple try to escape a house from a ghastly gunslinger who is looking for a very plastic looking skull. Fans of House will be instantly pissed off as the beautiful look of the first film with its old mahogany wood interior has been refitted to have a hideous staircase balcony and lots of neon (it is the 80’s after all).
This goes nowhere fast and we are quickly introduced to Jesse (played slightly befuddled by Arye Gross) and his record company worker girlfriend Kate (Lar Park Lincoln). Don’t bother remembering her name as they cart her off by the middle of the movie and she does little else before that.
The house has been in Jesse's family for generations apparently. We know from the original film that someone had been living there with their family but Jesse never gets a mention and why he is only getting it now is anyone’s guess.
But I digress.
Jesse's parents were the couple murdered at the start of the film, but it is hardly ever eluded to and quickly swept under the carpet as this is a fun film don’t you know!
Jesse finds a terrible Photoshop (or whatever the 1980s version is) photo of his great great grandfather and partner with the skull.
Enter Charlie (played by Gordon Stark). He is your typical frat boy comic relief character who is tolerable at best, hair ripping infuriating at worst.
It is his job to make Charlie look less boring and to give us at least some characters to follow. It is a real shame he is lumbered with this character because he was great in Fright Night (1985).
He too has a girlfriend who is a singer who Kate wants to sign. Aside from dancing in her pants for a bit (not as sexy as it sounds) we see even less of her than Kate so you can go ahead and forget about her now.
They decide to try to find Jesse's dead relative (also called Jesse!). They do and out pops his corpse, still alive to be a guardian of the skull from his ex-partner the bad gunslinger. He is all messed up and played by a former western star Royal Dano (which I only learnt via IMDB).
This is the start of the films nosedive as Gramps the corpse acts like the western hillbilly bullet from Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the films “comedy” goes into overdrive with Gramps learning to drive, drinking, watching telly and attending a costume house warming party Jesse has (for some reason).
It really is terrible.
We have one of Jesse's flirty exes introduced purely so the girlfriend can act disgusted and leave taking Charlie’s girlfriend with her.
I cannot even remember her name and I just cannot be bothered looking it up for the literal 3 minutes of screen time she has.
A Stone Age man takes the skull because people are drawn to it and the house has portals in it or something *shrugs*
We get a great scene where the two go to a prehistoric jungle via one of the rooms and take home a worm with a dog’s face and a baby pterodactyl.
Bill Maher pops up very briefly as a record-producer/Wall-Street type to take the girls away after Jesse has rambled on about all this nonsense. He has even less screen time than the girlfriends do.
But at least they get the skull back...Until Gramps loses it to some Aztecs!
Thank goodness he does because we get the delightfully funny Bill Towner (played by the pig from Toy Story - John Ratzenberger)
They go on a swashbuckling adventure inside one of the walls of the house to rescue the skull and a virgin (?) sacrifice from the Aztecs, which looks like a budget version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Bill is the best thing in this whole film chewing up the scenery as a laid back electrician and outshines everyone on screen.
Finally the gunslinger arrives and we get Jesse jumping back to the Wild West to confront him by blowing him to tiny pieces. Then the room blurs back to the present and the police blow him away to.
As a villain this gunslinger is terrible. Hardly ever seen he is easily dispatched by Jesse who blows his head of twice while the police do the rest.
Gramps dies because he is as old as heck.
And for some mind boggling reason Jesse, Charlie, Aztec sacrifice lady, worm dog and baby bird go to the Wild West, they leave the skull on Gramps grave, we assume, to just hang out there.
They clearly wanted a fresh start here, but as the first movie ends in a nice bundle they retcon everything.
Gone are the original cast replaced by boring teen types in their late 20’s.
Characters have tiffs that don’t go anywhere. Jesse and his girlfriend are a key point.
She leaves because she thinks he is having an affair, but they never resolve it. Jesse actually goes off to the Wild West with the non-English speaking Aztec woman!
Jesse is dull and Charlie is painful to watch
Gramps is terrible with his cowboy routine getting old the moment he opens his mouth,
Thank you John Ratzenberger for being in this movie!
It is clear the creators of House 2 looked at the first film and thought “Hey that film had a scene where a character travels in time, lets add that to our film” but they missed the whole point.
In House it is made clear that the house is actually alive in a sense, it can figure out your desires and fears. It uses this to its advantage making rooms turn into a place from the character's past and sending creatures out to mess with them.
House 2 has no character development so has to rely on this dimensional portal nonsense to turn it into a fun friendly comedy for all the family.
By making the actual house not the villain it destroys the whole premise of the first film and the reason I was interested in this franchise in the first place! This has thinly spread plot points which can be summed up as bad guy wants skull, good guys stop him, the end.
All they really did is make a massive clunker of a movie which is devoid of fun and painful to watch.
Oh its bad people, really bad.
But worse than that it is a disappointment. Maybe keep the padlock on this particular house well and truly locked!
However, If old dead prospectors driving cars and dog faced worms sound like something you want to watch. Purchase the House box set HERE
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FAVOURITE CHARACTER: Bill the incredible engineer / adventurer
FAVOURITE MOMENT: Prehistoric era room with stop motion dinosaurs and Rubber puppets
Bill: There it is. Looks like you’ve got some kind of alternative universe in there or something
FAVOURITE DEATH: : The evil gunslingers getting his body blown away one piece at a time