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House: The Second Story (October 16/01)

When Weekend at Bernie's 2 was released, a lot of folks complained that it was a completely unwarranted sequel, somewhere along the lines of Breakin': Electric Boogaloo 2. But those people apparently forgot about House: The Second Story - the all-time champion in the category of uncalled for sequels.

Arye Gross takes over for William Katt this time around, and he's joined by his girlfriend and two friends. They all move into the haunted house and shortly thereafter spooky stuff starts to happen - everything from a burgeoning forest in an upstairs room to the resurrection of Gross' long-dead grandfather.

As with the first movie, House 2 eschews thrills in favor of lame one-liners and cheesy sight gags. And apparently there's a rule that these House flicks have to feature a star of Cheers, because instead of George Wendt, John Ratzenberger (he played know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin) pops up as a mysterious handyman. Much of the story relies so much on jokey implausibility - such as the dead grandpa (played with a surprising amount of depth by character actor Royal Dano) - it's really quite difficult to care about anything that happens. Imagine watching a movie like The Naked Gun or Airplane! - except without the laughs - and you've got House 2.

But the first House film was such a success the filmmakers likely figured if it ain't broke, why fix it? And to make this flick even more accessible than the first one, the gore and violence has been toned down far enough to warrant a PG-13 rating. Obviously, random acts of brutality aren't required to create a successful atmosphere of dread - think any Hitchcock film or even this summers haunted house flick, The Others - but House 2 just goes too far with the over-the-top hijinks. It could've easily been advertised during Saturday morning programming under the label, "my first horror movie!"

But perhaps if you watch House 2 (and the original for that matter) with the right frame of mind, you might just find it an enjoyable romp in a wacky house o' horrors. Either that, or you'll find it to be an excruciating double bill from which there is no escape.

out of

© David Nusair