House (1986)

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Released 7-Aug-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Trailer-House II; House IV
Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Aurora
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 88:12 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Steve Miner
Studio
Distributor
Sean S. Cunningham
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring William Katt
George Wendt
Richard Moll
Kay Lenz
Case Click-Double
RPI Box Music Harry Manfredini


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Taking me back to my youth, comedy/horror flick House was still fairly fresh in my mind. Shot for USD$3 million, House did fairly well upon initial release (taking USD$20 million), but became a bigger success on home video – like most films of its kind from the 1980’s. I was only about eleven years old when I first saw House, and I remember being fairly scared by it. Come on, I was only eleven! I also remembered the film to be somewhat cheesy and funny. Well nothing has changed… except for maybe the scary side. This marks my third viewing of the film in a good 10-12 years.

    Those who remember that 1980’s show The Greatest American Hero will instantly recognise William Katt, who starred as, well, the ‘hero’. Here he plays recently divorced novelist Roger Cobb, who moves into his Aunt’s house after she has killed herself. Roger was raised by his Aunt and Uncle, and has many memories from the house, in particular the mysterious disappearance of his son. Roger moves in for some solitude, and to perhaps find out what happened to his son. But he soon realises that his late Aunt may have been correct when she said her house was haunted. Next door neighbour and self claimed fan of Cobb’s work, Harold Gorton (George Wendt, from another 1980’s TV show Cheers), does his best to disturb Cobb at every given moment. The two become aware of the supernatural happenings in the old mansion, and begin a battle against an army of incredibly cheesy looking zombies, that never look threatening, and move their mouths unrealistically – but that's just part of the fun.

    Being a big fan of any film that blends the perfect amount of comedy with the perfect amount of horror, along with plenty of gore and make-up effects, House is right down my alley. The 1980’s was a great decade for this genre, and House was one of the bigger successes. It is more mainstream than Sam Raimi's classic Evil Dead Trilogy, or Peter Jackson's earlier films such as Bad Taste and Braindead, in that it is a lot less gory. This is where House let me down upon this most recent viewing. In an obvious attempt to appeal to a wider audience, the film never turns on the gore like Jackson's or Raimi's films did, which is the main reason I still watch them. It seems that House tipped the scales more in favour of comedy than horror, which resulted in an entertaining if unspectacular experience. The visual style is also inferior to that of the aforementioned Raimi and Jackson efforts, detracting from the overall experience.

    I still got a kick out of watching House, and am sure to revisit it again in the future. Katt’s performance in the lead role was one of the film's stronger points, along with Wendt filling the sidekick role quite well. They seemed to make an entertaining duo. While never reaching the same level as Evil Dead 2 or Bad Taste – my favourites from its genre – House has not dated too much, and still presents 90 minutes of M rated horror/comedy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is quite good considering the film is now 16 years old.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find out that House is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced – not Pan & Scan as advertised.

    Sharpness is not perfect, but is satisfactory given the age of the print. Tending to look a bit soft at times, the overall sharpness was a minor flaw of little concern. Shadow details and black levels were quite strong, but again lacked the detail of a newer print, which is to be expected. Very light grain was present throughout most of the film's running time, standing out mainly at 22:25, lasting only a couple of minutes.

    Colours seemed fairly good for the most part, if only slightly subdued, which is, again, put down to the age of the print.

    MPEG artefacts seemed non-existent, but light film artefacts such as dirt, hairs and scratches were fairly frequent throughout. They never stood out
enough to become distracting, and were to be expected due to the age of the print.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer was a mixed bag, in that it was not mixed very well.

    We are given the choice of watching House with a very loud Dolby Digital 5.1 track or in Dolby Digital 2.0. I predominantly watched the film in 5.1, switching to 2.0 at certain times throughout. I would go with the 5.1 track, as the 2.0 was not quite as clear.

    Dialogue was fairly clear overall, never distorting or becoming unintelligible, but some of the screams made me wince a bit at times. The quality of the audio is not as clear as I would have liked, and the volume levels are way too loud. I had to turn my amp down to about 9, whereas a normal Dolby Digital 5.1 track works best at around 15 on my amp. There were no problems with audio sync at all throughout the entire running time.

    The score by Harry Manfredini was actually the best part of the soundtrack, as it was supported nicely by all channels, with some satisfactory low-end.

    Surround channel usage is where the main problem occurs with the 5.1 mix. The channels are quite active, but its the actual placement of sound effects that is poorly mixed. Any sound effect, such as footsteps or a door opening, that should only be mixed to the centre and/or front channels is heard coming from all speakers. It appears that every element of the soundtrack, except for dialogue, has been spliced into 5 separate mono tracks. There is no directionality in the surrounds, and it was quite disappointing overall.

    The subwoofer had a bit of work to do, but it was only really used to support the film's score. There were chances for the sub to kick in, such as gunfire and other sound effects, but unfortunately it was underused. I would still stick with the 5.1 mix, if only for the music score.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Trailer - House 2 (1.19)

    This sequel fares worse than House, but you'll have to wait for the full review to find out why.

Trailer - House 4 (1.45)

    It seems the series gets even worse as it goes along, as if this is anything unexpected. Although the return of William Katt should help it along, as he didn't feature in 2 or 3.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The main menu consists of a shot of the house from the film, which is frequently struck by lightning. Rain and thunder supports the animations, with some eerie sounds and screams added for atmosphere. The film's title is to the left of the house, in a flashing animated font.

Dolby Digital Trailer

    Aurora (0:33) - one of the more bland Dolby Digital trailers, although it is one of my favourites.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version misses out on an audio commentary from Director Steve Miner, Producer Sean S. Cunningham, Writer Ethan Wiley and William Katt, a twelve minute featurette The Making of House, a Still Gallery (49 frames), two theatrical trailers for House and a monaural soundtrack.

    Only the first two films of the series have been released on DVD in Region 1. The Region 1 DVD for House misses out on a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.

    The commentary track is apparently not the best ever recorded, but is still a regrettable omission. The remaining extras would have rounded off a nice disc, which makes the Region 1 version a clear winner. However, the box set is unavailable in Region 1, so it's a bit of a mixed bag. If you only want the first two films, go with Region 1. If you are a fan of all four films, then the Region 4 box set is the way to go. If you're a completist, you'll want to snag both versions to get extras plus the entire series.

Summary

    House is a fairly entertaining comedy/horror film from the mid-1980's. Not the best of its genre, it is a film that I will re-visit again as I had some fun with it.

    The video transfer is quite good for it's age.

    The audio transfer is a bit disappointing, due to a poor surround mix.

    The extra features are unfortunately disappointing, especially knowing what is on the Region 1 version.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Pockett (If you're really bored, you can read my bio...)
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-525, using Component output
DisplayTeac 82cm 16x9. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
Speakers5 Sony speakers; Sherwood 12" 100w Powered Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Trailers info correction - Geoff (read my bio)
Availability of "House" - Brett B
re: availability of house - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)
Re: Availability of "House" - Brett B
Audio Commentary - MrMacabre
Re: Availability of House - Troy K