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Anchor Bay presents
House (1986)

"It's going to trick you too. This house knows everything about you. Leave while you can!"
- Aunt Elizabeth's ghost (Susan French)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: August 03, 2001

Stars: William Katt, George Wendt, Kay Lenz, Richard Moll
Other Stars: Mary Stavin, Michael Ensign, Susan French
Director: Steve Miner

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (language, violence, horror-related gore, suicide)
Run Time: 01h:32m:22s
Release Date: June 26, 2001
UPC: 013131142495
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AA+B A-

DVD Review

The 1980s saw a slew of horror franchises hit the big screen, including the Nightmare on Elm Street series and the multitude of Fridays the 13th. The House series proved to be somewhat less vital, but it was kicked-off in fine fashion by the original horror-comedy.

Roger Cobb (William Katt) is a noted horror writer who is facing a major case of writer's block as he works on his memoir of his experiences in the Vietnam War. When his aunt, Elizabeth Hooper (Susan French) hangs herself in the creepy old house where Roger was raised, he decides that the house might be a good place to get some solitude (can we say The Shining?). The house also happens to be where Roger's young son inexplicably vanished a year or so before, leading to his divorce from starlet Sandy Sinclair (Kay Lenz). Things immediately take a turn for the creepy as Roger begins to see and hear things in the house, which holds a secret far nastier than he can imagine.

Providing most of the comedy is George (Cheers) Wendt, as Roger's bemused neighbor Harold. Unlike many comedians from television who stumble badly in movies, Wendt makes the transition seamlessly and with absolutely expert comic timing. Unlike much horror comedy relief, Wendt is genuinely funny throughout.

That's not to say that the film is primarily a comedy (as is the case with House 2). There's plenty of suspense and pure terror exuding from the malevolent house. Some of the monsters are pretty cheesy foam rubber, but the design is so marvelous at times that one is willing to forgive the technical shortcomings. Especially nasty is the rapidly-glimpsed creature in the closet that is an amalgam of Roger's memories of the dead from Vietnam. The combination is pure entertainment that exceeds wonderfully in two genres at once, on a marginal budget.

William Katt is quite believable for the most part, giving a more subtle transformation of a man coming apart at the seams than Nicholson gave in The Shining, and ultimately a good deal more credible. Kay Lenz doesn't get to do much besides look good (though "Miss World," Mary Stavin as Tanya, the other neighbor, looks better). Night Court's Richard Moll (to round out the sitcom veterans) is also a standout as the driven Big Ben, a semi-maniacal comrade to Cobb in his Vietnam flashbacks. Moll is quite effective and absolutely believable as a homicidal fiend.

Though the effects aren't always the best, and there are a number of big plot holes (if I were in a haunted house populated by spirits that avoided being photographed, I'd have the camcorder on my shoulder 24/7). But this is still a movie well worth seeking out for anyone looking for some chills with a healthy dose of comedy without the smug self-referential teens of the Scream variety that fill the multiplexes.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Why is it that Anchor Bay turns out discs of older movies that are uniformly gorgeous-looking, when the major studios can't manage to approach their track record? Once again, Anchor Bay provides an absolutely flawless video transfer. The picture is sharp and clear, with excellent color throughout. The blacks are extreme and gorgeous, with loads of shadow detail visible as well. The stained-glass window of a peacock, prominently featured in some early scenes, is breathtaking. Not a speck or a scratch is visible. Nor is there any edge enhancement. Just superb.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original English mono audio is presented in 2.0. Again, there is no hiss or noise to detract from the film. While a 5.1 remix might have added some depth to the Vietnam sequences, it's certainly adequate for the purposes of the feature.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Steve Miner, producer Sean S. Cunningham, writer Ethan Wiley and star William Katt
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills, lobby cards and publicity materials
Extras Review: The disc comes with plenty of extras. A trailer and TV spot (both called trailers on the disc) are included. There is a 1985 making-of featurette that includes a goodly amount of behind-the-scenes footage, as well as the usual puff promotion. The stills gallery includes a full set of lobby cards, black & white and color stills, and reproductions of a pressbook from Japan, where the film took the name Goblin. A set of production notes are included on the reverse of the cover sheet, where they might easily be missed. About the only thing I really missed were subtitles; there are a couple things Wendt mutters under his breath that I couldn't quite make out, and it'd be nice to know what they are.

Wrapping things up is a full commentary from the central players in the film, other than Wendt, who I wish had participated. It is nonetheless an informative and lively commentary with plenty of behind-the-scenes information and anecdotes to please fans of the movie.

But, as Ron Popeil might say, that's not all! The first 20,000 discs ALSO include the House 2 disc (presently unreleased separately), which not only has that movie in 1.85 anamorphic, but a trailer and a full-length commentary from producer Cunningham and writer-director Wiley. At this point, purchase of the disc is a no-brainer. While the sequel is by no means half as good as the original movie, it's still pretty entertaining and even kid-safe (unlike the original). The story has nothing whatsoever to do with the original; there are no story ties, no character ties, and not even the same house is involved, so it can be taken completely on its own terms without any knowledge of the first film at all. A+ for the first 20,000; the grade below is for the House disc on its own.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

A very enjoyable horror-comedy romp, with a superb comic supporting performance by George Wendt. Anchor Bay provides the usual fabulous transfer, and a lot of extras. If you buy one of the first 20,000 copies, then House 2 (with its own extras) is thrown in at the same price. How can you lose? Buy, already!


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