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House (1986): A Scary Good Release Courtesy of Arrow Video

Feature Presentations: Episode 6

Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Arrow Video’s release of House (1986).

When I first started talking about physical media at 25YL, I mentioned that Arrow Video released a well-crafted box set for the House franchise. I would assume that most people are familiar with this horror/comedy franchise, but I doubt it would top anyone’s list of best film franchises. I briefly touched upon the set, which included two versions of House III: The Horror Show, new documentaries for each film, plus a 60-page book. Since that article was published, I have added the House set to my collection and figured it would work well as the next entry into this column. Instead of diving into the entire set for one article, I’m looking at one entry at a time to ensure each film’s disc gets the attention it deserves. One final note, the edition I have does not include the limited edition book, so that will not be a part of these reviews.

Roger looks over the backyard with fresh holes and and holding a shovel.

With all of that out of the way, let’s dive into the first entry in the franchise, House (1985).

If you were a kid growing up in the ’80s like myself, a film like House was right up your alley. House mixes broad comedy with enough horror to traumatize youngsters; the film is a good time. From a story by Fred Dekker, the man who gave us Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, and a bonkers script from Ethan Wiley, House is unlike any other film. Going over the plot will not do the film justice as the movie looks to upend any preconceived notions you might have. What I will say is that the film is not as simple as its one-syllable title might suggest. The absurdity and scares go hand-in-hand to create a one-of-a-kind experience that will satisfy adults and children alike. 

I know I’m talking the film up now, but earlier I mentioned that it wouldn’t top anyone’s favorite franchise list, which I believe is accurate. A movie like House is unique and quirky, yet lacks memorable villains like producer Sean S. Cunningham’s other franchises, Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street. Without a hook like the classic horror franchises we know and love, House and its three sequels are a tier two franchise. And I think the creators don’t mind that at all. In the eyes of the House franchise, the sky is the limit, and the franchise stretches those limits as far as they can.

For a film that stretches its premise, Arrow Video also extends its limits on what one would want to know about House. Some franchises do not get the physical media love that Arrow shows to this film and its subsequent sequels. For the time being, we’ll leave the sequels on the back burner and return to those at a later date.

Anyone who appreciates physical media understands what boutique labels are and what they mean to those appreciative persons. There are boutique labels on the rise with Imprint, Kino Lorber and Code Red; the standard by which most physical media releases stack up are three specific labels: Shout Factory, Criterion, and Arrow Video. I have already done a quick review on the Shout Factory release of Starman, and reviewed Michael Mann’s Thief for Criterion. Let’s dive in and enjoy the care that Arrow Video brought to House.

A hanging woman with someone scared behind her

We kick off the disc with one commentary track that features producer Sean S. Cunningham, director Steve Miner, writer Ethan Wiley and star William Katt. From the comments on the track, the recording appears to have happened many years ago, but it is a blast to listen to nonetheless. Instead of a single person guiding us through the film or having comments spliced together to simulate a group commentary, these four are sitting together—conversing like the old friends they are. The track is warm, funny, and insightful, as all commentary tracks should be. Each participant offers their anecdotes and asides to keep the commentary moving at a steady pace.

The one piece of information I was most curious about was regarding how Fred Dekker fit into the House equation. As Dekker did not appear on the commentary, I was unsure of his involvement with the film and possible tension on set. The participants on the track detailed the idea Fred Dekker had for the film, a proposed Twilight Zone episode, and joked that they were not on friendly terms. As everyone laughed off the stories involved with Fred Dekker, one had to wonder if we would hear the other side.

Thankfully, Arrow Video helped my wonderous thoughts by including Fred Dekker and various cast and crew members for the making-of documentary, “Ding Dong, You’re Dead!” Here, we get a thorough production history of House from Fred Dekker’s initial story through the end of production. I am a sucker for a good making-of, and this one left me more than satisfied. Hearing Fred Dekker appreciate what the creators did with his idea and knowing everyone is on good terms (that we know of) hammers home that making House was a good experience. And no, I won’t spoil what Fred’s initial idea was; you’re going to have to get the disc and experience it yourself!

The documentary rounds up the crew from the commentary plus co-stars Kay Lenz and George Wendt, composer Harry Manfredini, and others to chime in about their experience on set. Making a movie is hard work, but when you get a cast and crew together who enjoy the project and get along with others, this documentary solidifies people who appreciate the work they put in; hammered home with an overwhelming sense of camaraderie.

Continuing with the disc, Arrow has provided a vintage, making-of piece with the cast and crew. If you watched “Ding Dong, You’re Dead!” then checked out the vintage making-of, it may feel like a letdown. There’s not much to the making-of, but I’m not complaining and will take any and all features that Arrow wants to throw on disc.

Rounding out the disc, we get to the marketing side with a gallery of images from the film. Add on to that the teaser trailer, theatrical trailers, and TV spots for good measure! I know you can locate all of these online, but I enjoy having an option to see how a film like this was marketed 36 years ago. It’s interesting to see what executives thought would get attention back in the day versus the calculated marketing pushes we get in 2021.

House DVD Box Set

The last feature allows access to view the first draft script and the short story that inspired House. I was unable to view these features in time for this review, but the ability to view how House became what it is—that’s outstanding on Arrow Video’s part.

There you have it! House is a film unlike any other, and Arrow Video did the film justice with a stacked release to please hardcore fans of the film and those who enjoy a good presentation of features. I’ll cover the rest of the series at a later date, but if you’re a fan of House or are looking for something that’s equal parts scary and kooky, this Arrow Video release is the only physical media release you’ll need.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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  1. This film left such an impression on me for my whole life. My older sister rented this movie when I was VERY young in the late 80’s and had me watch part of it with her. I was scared out of my mind, and couldn’t go anywhere in my families home by myself for a long time after that. The image of the grotesque lady monster was way too much for my fragile 4 or 5 year old mind to handle; where were the Ghostbusters when you needed them?!
    Many years later as an adult, I finally got around to rewatching this movie that had a personal infamy to me, and was surprised to find out that it was actually a Horror-Comedy and a really fun one at that. Still, to this day I can never forget my own personal experience with this movie and reading articles like this one always brings me back.
    This Arrow Video release of the films sound like a great package, and I would be very interested to watch some of the special features, particularly the making-of documentary. I may just have to get this. Thanks for the review!

    • Thanks for checking it out, JokersNuts! The film is a blast and worth having in your collection. Arrow Video put out different sets throughout the world: the US has the first 2 films in a set, outside the US, there is a complete set with all 4 films. Not sure your location, but the discs played in my Region A player (I’m in the US). If you can find the complete collection at a decent price, I’d say that’s the best way to go.

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