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House: Two Stories (Blu-ray)



House Two StoriesStarring William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Royal Dano

Directed by Steve Miner, Ethan Wiley

Distributed by Arrow Video

The names of director Steve Miner and producer Sean S. Cunningham were hot on the lips of horror fans in the early ‘80s, when the two of them (separately) oversaw the first three entries in the Friday the 13th series (Cunningham responsible for the first as producer/director, Miner helmed the following two sequels). A few years later, the two would finally work together – along with writer Fred Dekker (who gets a story credit) – on a horror film with a humorous twist, House (1986). Haunted house pictures were old hat by this point, but few had been made with a bent toward comedy, and House very much plays like a comic book come to life. Due to its success, only one proper sequel was produced, House II: The Second Story (1987), before the series (of sorts) went off the rails and saw two more semi-official entries – neither of which was well-received and, confusingly, weren’t marketed or produced as traditional sequels. In fact, House III: The Horror Show (1989) was marketed as just The Horror Show in the U.S., yet House IV (1992) was released direct-to-video without ever having an official preceding sequel on shelves. Even more confusingly, House II and The Horror Show are known as La Casa 6 and La Casa 7, respectively, in the insane ad hoc Italian series of loosely connected haunt flicks.

Roger Cobb (William Katt) is a tormented man whose life has been a series of misfortunes. He and his now-ex-wife, Sandy (Kay Lenz), separated after losing their only child, Jimmy (Erik and Mark Silver), who vanished without a trace. He suffers from recurring nightmares brought on by his time in Vietnam. He’s a writer caught with writer’s block. And now his beloved aunt just went and hung herself. Despite all this, the guy is actually in pretty good spirits. After his aunt’s funeral, Roger decides to keep her old Victorian home instead of selling the place, figuring it would be a comfortable, quiet place to get some writing done. Much to the disdain of his publisher and fans, Roger’s next novel isn’t going to be a fictional horror tale bur, rather, a retelling of his horrific time spent in Vietnam. And per his agent, “Nobody wants to read about Vietnam!”

Not long after settling in, Roger begins to experience strange phenomena. He sees things that aren’t there – or are they? A seemingly benign closet appears to be the portal to some otherworldly dimension, with unorthodox creatures attacking him randomly. His neighbor (and Roger Cobb fanboy) Harold (George Wendt), tries to offer some assistance but only winds up thinking Roger is a bullets short of a full clip. Sleep doesn’t offer any respite either, as Roger is tormented by visions of Vietnam and the slowly-revealed story of fellow soldier, “Big” Ben (Richard Moll), who died there years ago. Recognizing the house is capable of disturbing with him both psychologically and physically, Roger sets out to uncover its secrets and possibly even find the child he lost so many years ago. But an old foe stands in the way of redemption…

Above all else, this movie is just big time fun. Roger has seen a lot of true tragedy in his life, yet the film never feels heavy because of these events. A good part of that has to do with William Katt’s performance, which while fitting for the tone of this film never quite shows him coming across as a truly troubled man. Given his family history I’d expect the actual Roger Cobb to be damn near suicidal. Miner shot House in a comic-come-to-life style that features bold splashes of color, over-the-top creatures, and hearty doses of humor, nearly all of which come courtesy of George Wendt. The moment when he first meets Roger and unwittingly trash talks his dead aunt still kills me, even after multiple viewings.

Because the film is such a damn good time, and the creature FX work is a clear highlight, it can be easy to overlook the fact that many of the story elements never quite gel. The scripting feels sloppy at times, with tenuously linked elements coming together because they need to and not organically. It’s a testament to how well the filmmakers have done their job because, as a fan, these problems never really mattered much to me.

House II: The Second Story, on the other hand, is a film that is trying maybe a bit too hard to match or top the first entry, failing spectacularly in its admirable quest. Jesse (Arye Gross) and his girlfriend Kate (Lar Park Lincoln) have just moved into an old stone mansion that has been in Jesse’s family for generations. Not long after Jesse’s goofball buddy, Charlie (Jonathan Stark), joins them with his wannabe recording artist girlfriend, Lana (Amy Yasbeck). 25 years earlier, Jesse’s parents were murdered in this mansion on the night he was given away to an adoptive couple. Jesse decides to go through old family belongings and comes across a photo of his great-great-grandfather, also named Jesse (Royal Dano). In the photo the elder Jesse is holding a crystal skull as an associate, Slim (Dean Cleverdon), looks on. Assuming the skull must be buried with his grandpappy (because why not?), Jesse and Charlie dig up the old timer and find his corpse re-animated and spry as ever. “Gramps” has the skull alright, and it’s keeping him alive, though it hasn’t restored his body to its former glory as he thought.

After a series of amusing fish-out-of-water moments, Gramps explains he and Slim had a disagreement over the skull all those years ago and he shot his former friend, leaving him for dead in the desert. Furthermore, Gramps explains the old family homestead is actually a Mayan temple with rooms capable of transporting anyone back through time & space. During a Halloween party, a caveman warrior steals the skull and leads Jesse & Charlie on an adventure through a dinosaur kingdom. Later, another room is revealed when Bill (John Ratzenberger) arrives to do some wiring work and accidentally rips open a wall to reveal an ancient sacrificial chamber. Luckily Bill, a part-time adventurer, brought his sword for moments like this. Eventually Slim makes an appearance and the final showdown for the crystal skull is underway.

This is a goofy, dumb movie with its heart in the right place but the story just isn’t there. There are, however, many elements that prevent this from being an insufferable sequel. Royal Dano is the man-o, adding so much charm and charisma and heartbreak to his role as the original Jesse. He’s got a voice that is instantly recognizable and it brings so much to his character and the film as a whole. John Ratzenberger really steals his scenes as Bill, the electrician who treats time portals like they’re commonplace; his small role in integral in supporting the second act. And then there is creature FX designer Chris Walas, whose lifelike creations add unexpected variety to a haunted house movie. Who would’ve ever guessed dinosaurs would make an appearance here? This one definitely isn’t as good as the original but it works as a completely comedic sequel… which is a tad surprising given the opening scene is so grim.

For local So Cal readers: both houses from their respective films are within the vicinity of L.A., with the impressive estate from the sequel located just down the road from the iconic Staples Center. It’s tough to watch the film and not think about where it’s really located.

So, you’re a fan of this series and you want to own this set – and rightfully so, because Arrow Video has done a tremendous job. But are you also a completist? Because just across the pond, Arrow U.K. has issued a beautiful box set containing ALL four House films… and rumor has it they “accidentally” made all four films region-free. And considering the price shipped to the U.S. is nearly the same as the smaller set here, well, seems like an easy choice given those options.

Both House and House II are presented with a new 2K scan of their interpositive with a 1.85:1 1080p image, the results of which likely max out the picture potential for each. House looks the best, with a stable and clean image that features accurate color reproduction, natural (though occasionally chunky during effect shots) grain, and decent fine detail when close-ups occur. There is a bit of a framing issue that seems to expose more of the left side than necessary (at one point a crew member can be seen) but, honestly, I’m not one to nitpick releases to death like some collectors. It does not warrant a recall or boycott. House II is in the same boat (minus the framing thing), although my virtue of being a couple years newer the picture does seem to handle in a few areas ever-so-slightly better than the first. To most eyes, my own included, the images here are both pleasing and nearly identical. Fans will no doubt be happy with these clear upgrades over DVD.

House gets a trio of audio options – English LPCM mono, 2.0 stereo, or a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track. The 5.1 track offers up a little more breathing room for the soundfield and composer Harry Manfredini’s score (which is, for better or worse, unmistakably his work), though the 2.0 stereo option works just as well if you go that route. House II receives an English LPCM 2.0 dual mono track or a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track. As with the first film, either track gets the job done but the multi-channel does space effects and score out a bit better. Subtitles are included in English SDH on both films.

Both films are stacked with bonus features, including documentaries, commentary tracks, featurettes, and promotional materials.

House Bonus Features:

An audio commentary with “the cast & crew” features Ethan Wiley, William Katt, Sean Cunningham, and Steve Miner.

“Ding Dong, You’re Dead!” – This comprehensive behemoth features new interviews with many cast & crew members, including Katt, Cunningham, Miner, Wendt, and more. As expected, this nuts-and-all piece covers the entire production, from inception to completion.

“Vintage Making-Of” – Like an old-school episode of “Extra”, this narrated piece looks at Cunningham and Miner’s shared horror history before discussing their latest venture.

A still gallery, two trailers, a teaser, and a trio of TV Spots are the remainder of the extra features.

House II: The Second Story Bonus Features:

There is an audio commentary featuring writer/director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham.

“It’s Getting Weirder! – As with the lengthy piece done for the first film, this doc covers every nook & cranny, with plenty of input from the cast & crew.

A “Vintage EPK” features some great interview footage with Royal Dano. Not to be missed.

A still gallery, the film’s trailer, and a TV Spot conclude the bonus features.

Additionally, there is a very nice 148-page hardcover book included in the set, filled with information on the entirety of the series (the exact book is found in the U.K. set, too), making this already-sweet set even tastier.

Special Features:


  • Brand new 2K restorations of House and House II: The Second Story
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • 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


  • 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, special make-up and creature effects artists Barney Burman, Brian Wade, James Belohovek, Shannon Shea, Kirk Thatcher, and Bill Sturgeon, special paintings artists Richard Hescox and William Stout, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
  • Stills Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers


  • 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, special make-up and creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
  • Stills Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer


  • House
  • House II: The Second Story
  • Special Features
User Rating 0 (0 votes)
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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review



Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith

I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5


Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters



Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)


The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

User Rating 4.1 (21 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror




Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods

The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.


  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom


In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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