NOVEMBER 30, 2011
Much to the dismay of Phil Blankenship, I was not a big fan of House, which I finally saw for the first time at his first New Bev all nighter back in 2008. And now I disappoint the equally awesome Matt Serafini, who told me that he’d cock-punch me if I didn’t like House II: The Second Story when I mentioned I’d be watching it. Well, hopefully he'll reconsider, but I guess Phil can take some solace in that it makes me think House wasn’t so bad after all, because I was enjoying that one occasionally, whereas this one I only found myself entertained for a 10 minute segment featuring John Ratzenberger.
In what I assume was an intentional “carrying of the torch” casting decision, Ratzenberger plays a similar role that his Cheers-mate George Wendt played in the first film, namely that of a guy who seemingly walked in from a different, better movie. When Ratzenberger first enters and starts casually knocking over Arye Gross’ shit and addressing everything with a laidback response (including the presence of an alternate dimension), I began wondering how infinitely more fun the movie would have been had his character been in it all along.
Because most of the movie is given to Arye Gross and Jonathan Stark (Billy Cole!) mugging their way around the house, or just being plain unfunny. I kept hoping Royal Dano (as Gross’ great grandfather, a cowboy who is resurrected) would just shoot them and take over from there, but no dice. The movie also wastes the rest of its cast, including a fairly amusing Bill Maher as some yuppie and the lovely Jayne Modean as would-be love interest, both of whom exit the movie with little fanfare and are never mentioned again. The movie doesn’t even bother to reunite Gross with his girlfriend (New Blood’s Lar Park-Lincoln), who takes off after a misunderstanding, as is demanded by the screenwriting rules of the 1980s. To say it’s sloppy is putting it mildly – this movie seems to forget plot elements as soon as they introduced (and forget about even trying to connect it to the first film).
It’s also barely a horror movie, heavily skewing toward the comedy portion of things. In fact I remember why I never bothered watching it as a kid – the PG-13 rating told me it would be “lame” (benefit of being a kid who could watch R rated movies – I didn’t have to settle for this sort of shit). In fact I’m surprised it even got that much; I assume because it’s technically a horror movie the MPAA figured a PG wouldn’t fly, even though absolutely nothing happens in the entire movie except for a cheap zombie (Gramps’ enemy) losing his head. But with all the sci-fi/fantasy elements surrounding it, I’m sure they could have made a case for a PG and gotten it. Almost all of the Star Trek movies got them, those always had similarly non-violent deaths.
And that would be fine if it were funny, but the attempts at comedy are so half-hearted and weak that most of them barely register as jokes. I guess it’s supposed to be amusing when Gross begins chasing a baby pterodactyl puppet around the house, but I didn’t even crack a smile (Pterodactyl was funnier!). Stark’s mugging as he played the “wacky best friend” also got on my nerves after a few minutes, which is unfortunate since Gross seems far more interested in hanging out with him than his hot girlfriend. Other than Ratzenberger, my biggest amusement was seeing how well Gross and Stark accepted their new zombie friend – they don’t seem to consider it weird or scary at all. I’d like to think that after watching a couple thousand horror movies I wouldn’t be too fazed by finding a zombie cowboy in my basement, either. I’d be more surprised to discover I had a basement.
At one point I had to check the IMDb to make sure Charles Band had nothing to do with this thing, what with the alternate dimensions, tiny creature puppets (a cute little “dog” thing), and even a few sorcerer type baddies for good measure. That’s the sort of shit he puts in all his movies! But no, this is the work of his slightly more respectful producer rival Sean Cunningham. The composer credit gives that much away, in fact – instead of Richard Band, we have Harry Manfredini, which means half of the score is lifted from Friday the 13th sequels. To be fair, this is otherwise one of his more spirited efforts, with some old Western/adventure style cues to go along with his usual horror junk.
But I guess that can sum up the movie’s problems quite nicely, huh? When Harry Manfredini’s score is one of the brighter spots, you know you’re deep into bad horror movie land. Probably why the movie has a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. At any rate, if I ever get around to seeing House IV (there is no real House III, see Horror Show for minor explanation), at least it ignores this one and returns to the slightly more enjoyable story of the original film.
What say you?