House On Haunted Hill (1999)
Having only seen it once during its initial theatrical run, I recently decided to sit down and watch Dark Castle Entertainment’s remake of House On Haunted Hill. To be honest, it had been so long since my only viewing of this film, that I could only really remember a new moments of it and I was afraid that I would somehow find it boring.
Well, I should have known that the studio that brought us House of Wax, Gothica, and The Orphan would not disappoint.
Let’s just start with the cast. Firstly, there is my late '90s crush Bridgette Wilson playing a more amped up version of the bitchy sister character she portrayed in I Know What You Did Last Summer. Then, there is Taye Diggs. Remember him? He was famous for a little while for giving Stella her groove back. Famke Janssen plays the conniving wife of Geoffrey Rush. Yes, you read that right. As Stephen Price, Geoffrey Rush is supposed to be a William Castle-type character who promotes not gimmicky movies, but gimmicky rides… I guess. It is not entirely clear why someone like him would be famous. Ali Larter makes the cast as Sarah Wolfe. She is supposed to be a vice president of a movie studio. Uh huh. Amazingly, she stands out more against this group of hammy actors than she did against Beyonce’s enormous upstaging legs.
Speaking of hams, one of this movie’s truly shocking moments happens very early on:
Chris Kattan got an “and” and Peter Gallagher got a “with” in the credits?! Wow. Talk about instantly dating a movie. Peter Gallagher plays a smarmy doctor… who is pretty much the same as the smarmy dance instructor he played (okay, he nailed!) in Center Stage. Chris Kattan plays Harry Potter with addiction problems.
Anyway, in contrast to later Dark Castle flicks, the opening sequence is surprisingly gory and even has a couple flashes of nudity. In these scenes, the audience glimpses the sinister history of the haunted house. We find out that the Reanimator (Jeffrey Combs) had been running a famous sanitarium where he was conducting experiments on the patients. Somehow, they got loose, raped Amanda Kruger, and Freddy was born.
Okay, that last part was from a different movie. But, you get the point. Inmates slaughter the staff, who are trapped inside because of some sort of weirdo contraption that allows metal sheets to slam down over all of the doors and windows.
Years later, of course, Famke Janson’s character, Evelyn Stockard-Price, decides that this place would be perfect for a schlocky event. So, she calls her husband and puts together a guest list.
Somehow or another, though, the guest list is switched and a totally different group of people arrive. The show must go on, though, and Stephen Price announces that all must spend the night and anyone that survives until morning will be able to take his share of five million dollars.
How, exactly, does this guy make any money??
Now, I need to go off on a little bit of a tangent here. The movie is called House On Haunted Hill, right? Under what circumstances am I supposed to believe that anyone would call this place a house? I don’t care is English is your fifth language, no one is making that mistake. It is a Building From the Future On Haunted Hill. But, I guess that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Anyway, from the moment this group is trapped inside the Building From the Future, it doesn’t take long for the bodies to start piling up. I mean, assuming you don’t think almost an hour is a long time.
Does it sound like I am complaining? Because I am really not. With this group of characters, it is more fun keeping them around. That way, there is more time for dialogue like:
“God damn! This place is scary, yo!”
“Looks like someone’s trailer park is showing.” and,
“Everything you do makes me hot. Just not in the sexual sense”.
Unlike the original movie, we find that this place actually is haunted. Haunted by a screen saver.
My brother, Billy, often will find clever ways to wrap up his reviews... Well, I am not Billy. The best I can come up with is a finger for each "h" in the title.