House is one of the best horror/comedy hybrids of all time. It shouldn't surprise anyone that it garnered its own bundle of sequels. Likewise, it shouldn't surprise anyone that House II: The Second Story is a wobbly, domesticated version of the original. I'll comment on parts three and four later, but for right now, let's stick with the second...story (damn, I was trying to sidestep obvious jokes). This flick embraces comedic stylings over any other genre. In fact, the horror elements are muffled by booming, obstreperous peals of fantasy, adventure and cartoonish slapstick. If this wasn't a sequel to House, I wouldn't even consider reviewing it for the site.
The plot is a mess. Some milktoast twentysomething named Jesse (as portrayed by John Cusack lookalike Arye Gross) inherits a creepy manor with a tragic past. He discovers that there may be treasure buried beneath the property, but before he can make headway, his friends crash the place to throw a housewarming party. Ugh, it would take forever to run through each and every beat. In a nutshell, Jesse wakes up his undead great grandfather. They unearth a crystal skull (yeah), and in consequence, they contend with dinosaurs, ancient Aztecs and a zombie cowboy.
I have several problems with House II. For starters, the script doesn't make any sense. What's with the barking caterpillar? Why do they keep the baby Pteradactyl as a pet? If the crystal skull is so fucking important, why do they insist on leaving it unguarded in plain sight? If the skull grants you immortality, then why does Gramps die? And why does the zombie cowboy need the skull? Apparently, he didn't need it to rise from the grave and split a kitchen table in half. I realize that I'm thinking too much, but you have time to think when you're not laughing or being entertained.
That's another thing. House II isn't funny. The bromidic gags can be attributed to the PG-13 rating. This is one safe movie. To be honest, it could have been rated PG. It's not an outright pile-up, though. The special effects are rather inviting. John Ratzenberger kicks ass in his limited role, and while his character is a walking question mark (no, really...who in the blue fuck is he supposed to be?), his scenes brought a stupid grin to my face. Still, skip House II: The Second Story if you can help it. I am proud to own House III: The Horror Show and House IV on VHS. They're not exactly prizewinners, but they clobber this tame fable.
A poor man's The Frighteners.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 10:55 PM