Open House Pt 5 (House: the Collection)

For a long time, it was hard to come by the films in this set, outside of the first two which were more well known. Until Arrow came along, a complete blu-ray set seemed an unlikely scenario.


Each disc comes in its own case with reversible art, one side newly created artwork for the Arrow Releases and the other side the original poster or VHS art. I admit, my preference is to the original art.  The paintings are really nice, but the disembodied hand ring the doorbell is iconic.

The Box itself is sturdy, allowing for safe storage.

Each disc is loaded with extras, including bonus interviews, audio commentaries and all new documentaries for three of the films. I wish they had one for the third film. However, the Horror Show includes the American and European cuts in HD.

This is a good set, full of really good extras to let you immerse yourself in the history of each movie.

Open House pt 1 (House, 1985)

House_1986_PosterSo, in the early 80’s Sean S. Cunningham was working on expanding on his success with the Friday the 13th franchise. Teaming up with Fred Dekker (screenwriter and director of Night of the Creeps and the Monster Squad) and Ethan Wiley to make a haunted house film directed by Steve Miner (Director of Friday the 13th pt 2 and Halloween H20).

House tells the story of a popular horror writer who struggles with his post traumatic stress from his time in Vietnam. In addition, since the death of his son, his marriage has fallen apart. He decides to tackle his demons by writing a book about his time as a soldier. He inherits a house from his aunt who hung herself.

As he sets forth making the house his new home, he starts to deal with bizarre phenomenon…like monsters coming out of closets and a monster version of his ex-wife and visions of his dead son.

House is one of the more unique horror films of the mid-80’s. It is very intentionally meant to be fun.  The monsters are fun old school practical, but the film never is all that scary. William Katt plays Roger Cobb serious, but with just a hint of a man wondering if he is caving in to absurdity. George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) is his neighbor Harold.  Wendt is pretty open that back in 1985, his Cheers success kind of fed his ego to feel he was better than appearing in a horror film (Wendt looks back on this as foolishness on his part and feels the movie held up). This may have benefited his performance though, because he is really entertaining.

house_newspaper_adAs noted, in spite of there being plenty of monsters, this film is tonally light.  But it benefits the film. House is a lot of fun to watch, and overcomes any limitations of it’s budget to be a memorable time.

The Night He Goes to School (Halloween H20, 1998)

halloween_h_2_o_posterBy 1997, slashers had almost seemed like a dead genre. Frankly, Halloween 6 could have been the death bell. Yet, 1996 was also the year that slasher pics got a shot in the arm. A little movie called Scream-a satirical look at the genre was a major hit that had people talking. It seemed to poke fun at the conventions of the slasher film, while following them quite a bite (though taking opportunity to turn some of them on their head). Scream proclaimed Halloween the grand-daddy of them all. And that got producers talking.

There were, as I recall, talks to bring back Carpenter (which I thought was exciting). Then there came talk of involvement from Kevin Williamson, writer of Scream (both one and two). This also excited fans. But the thing that really got people talking? Jamie Lee Curtis was back in the game. This brought about an interesting turn.

A few facts. Donald Pleasence was dead by the time they were writing this. Laurie Strode was dead according to previous films. So what did they do?

Spoilers ensue…

The filmmakers took an approach that both wiped the slate clean and yet adhered to some film continuity. It’s clear that none of the events in 4-6 happened now. As far as H2O is concerned? The series started with Halloween and the story had ended in Halloween 2. And now, the story was continuing 20 years later. For some this was upsetting, to others? It was a bit of relief.

The director Steve Miner (a veteran of the Friday the 13th series) had taken quite a task. Dimension was giving a big push to this new film. The end result is satisfying. I would say that it is one of the best of the sequels. The story is told at a fast pace, and they make sure not to confuse the audience. It’s clear from the start that Dr. Loomis has passed. And we rapidly learn Michael is still alive and still obsessed with his sister…a woman the world thought dead. But it turns out she has gone underground to avoid the pressures of the fame. And to avoid Michael. She’s now pretty much a functional alcoholic single mom. She is the head of a prestiges private school in the middle of nowhere.  She is haunted by images of Michael.

Her life of paranoia is driving an ongoing wedge between her and son John (Josh Hartnett) -What?  Not the family name?!  At first she is prohibiting him from going on the school camping which aggravates him as he was looking forward to being with his girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams).  But as slasher films tend to go, Jon and Molly slip aside and stay at the school with their rebel friends Sarah (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) and Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd, whose career pretty much halted after this film-apparently to go to college).

So this leaves the school empty, except for Laurie, her boyfriend (and fellow faculty member) Will (Adam Arkin) and the security guard Ronny (LL Cool J) .  The kids, of course are hiding out and decide to have a night of romantic fun and reckless sex (or reckless fun and romantic sex, I don’t know). Michael is quietly stalking the grounds by this time, not quite as carefree in his slashing as the earlier films.  Sarah and Charlie are clearly knife fodder and Michael dispatches them quite ruthlessly.  These are some of the most intense sequences the franchise has seen in a long time, with some genuine discomfort and suspense.

John and Molly seek out Laurie, who is not to excited at the sight of her big brother.  Getting John and Molly off the campus, she turns back and decides this must end.  Grabbing an ax she starts to stalk Michael.  We get a very solid cat and mouse sequence that finally appears to result in Michael’s death.  But Laurie is no idiot, after Michael’s body is loaded into an ambulance in a body bag, she steals the vehicle, waiting for what she knows is going to happen.

Michael rises from the body bag, so Laurie intentionally crashes the ambulance.  Michael is pinned between a branch and the ambulance.  There is a somewhat touching moment, where Michael reaches out to Laurie in an almost child like fashion.  And for a moment?  Laurie hesitates, ax in hand.  Then she swings the ax and takes Michael’s head off.

All in all, Halloween:H20 works extremely well.  Easily the best of the sequels.  And as sequels go, it makes sense without having seen the original-without relying heavily on “plot exposition” guy.   The actors all do fine jobs and the direction and cinematography is good, with a great use of shadow.  Really, this film works well.  And had this been the last movie?  It would have ended the series on a high note. Of course, it was not the last, so the really high note they could have ended on?  Squandered.  But I still like this one.  It offers closure to the story, and Laurie comes out heroic and on top.

Lets Go Camping Part 3D (Friday the 13th Part 3, 1982)

friday13thpart3Part three is in 3-D and you know what that means… long drawn out scenes with people pushing things towards the camera. They dump the plot of camp counselors trying to reopen the camp this time around. Instead, it’s a group of friends going to Dana Kimmell’s cabin. Dana is unsure about returning to the cabin, because a crazy man attacked her there. You won’t be surprised to learn it was Jason, since they are at the infamous Crystal Lake So we get a bunch a college students hanging out in a cabin. Not much happens, as Jason holds out on killing the kids until late into the film. His first victims are a couple that run a general store and then some pissed off bikers who are angry at the college kids for running over their bikes in 3-D.

One by one they are knocked off and Jason gets a hold of his famous hockey Mask, which he steals from one of his victims. We are left with the Lone Survivor who fights Jason in a barn. She knocks him out and puts a noose around his neck., then kicks him over the edge hanging him. Thank God that’s over. So she climbs down the ladder and goes to open the barn door. She is shocked when Jason wakes up and proceeds to set himself free. So they fight, suddenly, one of the bikers we assumed dead leaps out of the shadows and-is quickly killed by Jason. But this gives our plucky Sole Survivor the moment she needs to grab an axe and plant it in Jason’s skull. He staggers and falls.

The Sole Survivor goes out in the dark and gets in a boat. She falls asleep, and then wakes up in the morning when the boat bumps into a submerged branch. Then she gets a scare when a duck flies by. Then her boat gets stuck on a bigger submerged branch. Then, she looks to the cabin by the shore…who is looking at her from a Window? An overly excited Jason! He comes bursting through the door and the Sole Survivor starts panicking and trying to get her boat free, then she looks back. The door is still on its hinges, Jason was not really there. Whew! Suddenly from behind, a decaying Pamela Voorhees leaps from the water (somehow managing to get her head back on her body between movies) to grab our Sole Survivor. But WAIT! She’s just gone crazy. The cops have her. Now, noone tried to call the police in the film, but being the Crystal Lake area, I guess they figure you can never be to careful, so they randomly check cabins for slaughtered counselors. They put the crazy Sole Survivor in the back seat as she babbles about a lady in the lake(are we seeing a trend here?). The cops never search the barn, since that is where they would actually find the body of Jason with axe still firmly implanted in his skull. The best part of the movie? The hilarious theme for the opening and closing credits.

The lone survivor girl being a bit crazy at the end of each film is starting to get tiring.  The film has a cast of pretty people and the lone loser who they put up with.  The character is to obnoxious to be sympathetic, which seems to be the opposite of what they were going for.  It is clear he is supposed to be a love-able schlub.

The 3D is not effective at all, and the outdated 3D leaves us with a ton of boring footage that was supposed to startle the audience.  The third film does not breath life into the franchise, just keeps it chugging along.

Oh yeah.  In Part 2, Jason has long stringy hair and a beard. Part 3 takes place literally hours after the second film.  In this film, he is clean shaven and bald.  Stopped at the barber I guess.

Let’s Go Camping Part 2 (Friday the 13th Part 2, 1981)

friday_the_13th_part_2-usPart two shows us that Jason is still alive and stomping around Camp Crystal Lake, killing random people. Mainly folks no one would miss, you know, like the town sheriff and the Official Crazy Old Guy from the first film. Initially, Jason leaves Camp Crystal Lake to kill the Sole Survivor of the first film. After what she did to dear old ma-beheading her and all. Due to low property value, Camp Blood has remained closed in the five years since the first film. Luckily for fans of slasher films, there is another  camp on the same lake. Again, a variety of attractive young counselors are killed in gruesome ways. Jason runs around with a potato sack over his head, which frankly is not all that scary, nor as iconic as the hockey mask. But the Sole Survivor of the film finds Jason’s shack where he keeps Ma’s severed head and her sweater. She puts on the sweater and convinces Jason she is his mother. Because, you know, they look so much alike. She almost is done in by Jason but is saved by her boyfriend. She returns the favor by putting an axe or a machete (I forgot which already) into the back of Jason’s knap-sacked skull. The two lovebirds go back to the camp. They go into the main cabin and suddenly there is a scratch at the door. They get ready for a fight and open the door and it’s “the cutest dog in the world” that went missing earlier in the film! While people can stomach its short shorts wearing owner being butchered, killing the puppy, that would make Jason some kind of sicko.

Suddenly, in slow motion a deformed Jason leaps through a big glass window and grabs the Sole Survivor. And she wakes of screaming on a stretcher asking where her boyfriend is. Which no one answers. Inexplicably, he is just gone. But hey, what kind of Jason movie would end without a Sole Surviving Girl babbling incoherently?

The film follows its prescribed formula that will set the story for the series. People show up, Jason kills them…cause why not?  Amy Steel is a strong protagonist, but the overall story is not very compelling.

One thing that makes no sense. Jason did not drown. But it is clear in the first film Pamela Voorhees clearly believes Jason is dead. So, if Jason survived the drowning…in all those years he never tracked her down? And yet he loves her enough to keep her head on a table in a run down shack?

*Updated to correct a factual error regarding the film’s timeline.

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