HOUSE WEEK: House II: The Second Story (1987)

Ethan Wiley, who injected the humor into the original House script, returns to direct the sequel, which comes from a story by Fred Dekker that Wiley adapted. If you disliked the comedy in the original film, well, get ready. This one has no interest in being serious.

Prologue: a young couple gives up their child before an undead gunman murders them in their mansion. That baby grows up to be Jesse (Arye Gross, who was the original voice of Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years before Daniel Stern took over), who decides to move back into that house with his girlfriend Kate (Lar Park Lincoln, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood). They’re soon joined by goofball friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark, Fright Night) and his wannabe rock star girlfriend Lana (Amy Yasbeck, who met husband John Ritter on the set of Problem Child).

Jesse has insomnia, which leads to him digging through the basement. He discovers a photo of his great-great-grandfather (Royal Dano, who starred in plenty of cowboy films) standing in front of an Aztec temple with a crystal skull in his hand. In the background is Slim Reeser, his one-time partner turned enemy over the ownership of the skull.

At this point, anyone would be happy to discover this photo and move on with their life. But that’s normal life. Here, Jesse and Charlie decide to dig up his ancestor’s grave to find the skull. Imagine their surprise when Gramps is still alive inside his coffin. Compound that with the fact that he wants to bond with his grandson.

It turns out that the house was built with stones from an Aztec temple and that it contains gateways into other time periods with the skull acting as the remote control, if you will. The forces of evil are drawn to the skull, though, so the boys better be ready to defend it.

Meanwhile, a Halloween party ends up with the boys losing their girls and an appearance by Bill Maher as a record exec. A caveman also attacks the party guests looking for a skull and a baby pterodactyl and a caterpillar-dog come along for the ride.

To compound the film’s weirdness, Bill (John Ratzenberger, who like George Wendt in House was a star on TV’s Cheers) comes to inspect the wiring, but he’s really an adventurer with a sword in his toolbox. He leads the guys through a portal — he’s incredibly nonchalant about the proceedings — and helps them save a virgin who is about to be sacrificed.

During a meal where Jesse embraces his new family — yes, a family that includes a dinosaur and a dog-headed caterpillar — Slim makes his return, rising out of a serving dish. He shoots Gramps, who reveals that this is the man who killed Jesse’s parents. Jesse defeats the evil gunfighter, but can’t save Gramps, who tells him that its time to say goodbye.

The cops come to the house, alerted by all the gunfire, and prepare to fire on Jesse. He uses the skull to go back in time to the Old West, taking his friends and pets with him. The film ends with him burying Gramps and using the crystal skull to make his grave, as he follows the old man’s dying advice and doesn’t become addicted to the skull’s magic.

Interestingly enough, Marvel Comics did an adaption of the film!

House 2 is something else. It’s never sure what kind of movie it wants to be, but it gets so strange that you just feel like you have to go along for the ride. The scenes with Bill are great fun and the ending drama always makes me tear up. And you have to love the caterpuppy.

If you’re confused by the fact that this movie has nothing to do with the original House, the way the movie was released in Italy is going to blow your mind.

The Evil Dead was called La Casa there and Evil Dead II followed that numbering. But as we all know, Italian filmmakers are fond of making their own sequels. That’s what led Joe D’Amoto to make La Casa 3, which was released here as Ghosthouse. Don’t worry — we’ll cover that one tomorrow and it’s well worth the wait.

Two other sequels in name only, La Casa 4 (released in the US as Witchery) and La Casa 5 (Beyond Darkness) followed. Yes, those are coming up this week as well!

So here’s where it gets confusing. Our House 2 is La Casa 6. And The Horror Show, a movie that is pretty much the same film as Shocker, is La Casa 7. But in the US, The Horror Show was sold as House 3, despite having nothing to do with any of the other movies. Huh? What? A final sequel with William Katt reprising his Roger Cobb role would come out in 1992.

You can grab a copy of the great Arrow Video re-release of this film at Diabolik DVD. They also have the box set of the first film, this one and a book about them here.

I totally love how confusing things like this can be. And I love the La Casa series! I can’t wait to share even more of it tomorrow with you!

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