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Rich but eccentric millionaire Steven Price is looking for the ultimate
scares. He invites a group of people to spend the night in the former
Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane where the
inmates revolved in a orgy of violence against the cruel regime of Dr
Vannacutt. The one who does spend the night will get $1million dollars.
However it soon becomes evident that not all the scares are set up by Price
This remake of the old 1958 movie sees the plot expanded and made a lot more creepy and enjoyable. In fact the end point of the original is only the halfway mark of this one. The plot may not be imaginative but the delivery is very good for this type of film. I'm not a big fan of horror or this type of Hollywood slasher movie as I find them too obvious and not scary. However here the gore is well used and the general creepy mood wins the film. The movement of the deceased Dr Vannacutt is very creepy and is much better than some of the gore.
Sadly the final 20 minutes feels it needs to reveal a bigger evil and the secrets of the house are brought to life in boom of CGI beasties. At this point it reverts to form and because just another Hollywood creature feature and it is a bit of a let down. However up to this point it works very well and it's real creepy.
The cast are all pretty good and do `camp' when necessary but don't take away from the terror that's coming later. Rush plays nicely to the camp in his homage to Price's role in the original. Jensen, Diggs, Gallagher and Kattan all do well and the cast do better than the scream queens that usual inhabit these films.
Overall the film starts like any other Hollywood horror but the clever direction, creepy music and imaginative visuals of Dr Vannacutt all create a creepy feel to the film that is better than the gore that also comes. The final section slides back into standard fare with the old CGI evil coming to get us but up till then it's surprisingly good stuff.
For once, a movie even scarier and more horrifying than the trailers for it.
The whole was not equal to the sum of its parts. Geoffrey Rush (what's HE doing in this movie?!) as Steven Price is actually a very interesting character, which can be attributed to either the effort the script takes to set him up, and/or the brilliance of the Oscar-winning actor in the role. Price's wife, Evelyn, gets similar treatment, but it is here the screenwriter(s?) get lazy.
The strangers in the house DO get a minimal amount of character set-up, i.e. who they are, what they do... but this information is never touched on again. One would HOPE that all ths information is being displayed for some higher purpose-- the background of these five strangers, the cat-and-mouse game played by Mr. & Mrs. Price, and Mr. Price's fascination with fear that is set up so intensely in the movie's opening minutes.
But alas, none of this GOES anywhere. It is all completely independent from the agenda of the House when I felt like it should all tie together, somehow. There are three forces at work here-- the ghosts who haunt the house, the humans who are trapped in it, and the Darkness that lives beneath it. These are all separate entities, we find, but for what purpose? This movie could have gone on another ten minutes, some loose ends could have been tied up, and I could have given it a much higher score.
Instead, what was truly an INTENSE build-up, sputters out at the very end of the movie. It didn't even feel like an end, it just felt like the movie stopped, and we're left without an explanation to what happens to the survivors-- including the most interesting character in the movie, the House itself.
7 out of 10. Fun to watch, truly terrifying, but incomplete.
I've seen some of the comments on the film here, and would beg to differ with many. I found the film to be entertaining (wouldn't William Castle have wanted that?) and that it actually paid homage to the original in so many ways (how many remakes ever do that? Generally they add a flavor-of-the-month star, a bunch of irrelevant plot changes and a soundtrack from a has-been band or one that should never have been). As a bonus, a supernatural element was brought to this film that wasn't there in the original version. I've seen a lot of complaining about the ending, but hey, life sometimes sucks and I could certainly see something like that happening to me. To tell the truth, I'd have to say that this remake was better than the first version. And this is from a stone-cold believer that Karloff was the best Frankenstein monster and Lugosi the best Dracula. Tongue in cheek this movie is -- James Whale would have loved it.
Asylums. Crazy people. Insanity. Mental therapy, mental hospitals, mental patients have been used time and time again in horror fiction and horror films. Why? I'm not sure; maybe, it is the normality of being like those that are insane which brings a more genuine horror to us. Whatever it is, House on Haunted Hill certainly uses all the mental derangement cliches to full effect. I could easily pan this film by saying(and rightly so) that its predecessor, the original House on Haunted Hill directed by William Castle, is a far superior film. That Castle's film was filled with better acting, better timing, and easily a better script. But I liked this film, which is not really a remake entirely. It has many elements that are not in the first film; most of them centering around the mental aspect aforementioned. The house in this film was once an asylum where people...thousands perhaps..were brutally butchered in the name of mental good health. The house is scary. Empty corridors, large, vast rooms, incredible special effects all add to the frightening aspects of the film. The biggest problem with the film is that much of it just doesn't add up in terms of making sense of the plot. The film fortunately is more special effects driven than plot driven, and at least is able to deliver the goods in that arena. The acting is pretty good with all the leads really doing quite a good job. Geoffrey Rush gives his best Vincent Price impression(pencil-thin mustache and all) delivering lines with bravura gusto. The other exceptional standout is Chris Kattan as Watson Pritchard. Kattan is just wonderful in the role showcasing his obvious talent. As far as great horror films go...this film is adequate, yet very thrilling, exciting, and entertaining. If you are like me and love the old one...just look at this film as a totally different entity. It is. One thing is for sure...it is one heck of a rollercoaster ride!
This is not a bad remake. It is "R" rated, so parents
this is NOT the Price classic of 1958. Within the first
there is gore (surgery on a wide awake man), violence (the
inmates of the asylum break loose and attack the staff),
nudity (uniforms ripped open on the women). This is crucial
to the plot (Hill House is not the same murder house from
original, it's a former asylum for the criminally insane
torture and experimentations are done on the inmates). A
breaks out and all but five die.
Jump to present day. Multimillionaire Steven Price (is the name a nod to Vincent?) played by Geoffrey Rush, doing his best sideshow barker impersonation/Williams Castle impersonation, and wife (Famke Janssen) are having a party, in the restored former asylum. The guest's trip to the house is still via several hearse and from this point much of the original plot is maintained.
The part that bothered me about the arrival scene at the house, was the inappropriate song. It set the wrong mood, and I worried about what was going to be next. Thankfully, the rest of the score (except the end title) was strictly orchestral, and sent a nice dark mood to try to help to scare you. Applause to Don Davis.
House does rely rather heavily on special effects as do all the current re-makes. Is it really better or worse for it? I think it adds, and they didn't just redo the same show. It's spooky and a good Halloween movie, and a dark theater is excellent for it's effect. I am sorry, but there was nothing that I found really scary or horrifying. Of course, I haven't really been scared by a movie since I saw the Wolf Man (1941), with Lon Chaney jr, in 1958.
I was expecting the worst--a remake of a lousy 1950s Vincent Price flick (I
HATE the original--talk about boring!) and there were no previews--never a
good sign. I was surprised to find an intelligent, scary movie. There was
gore and violence, but they didn't overdo it (except for the part when
someone was given shock treatment--talk about harrowing!). The script was
intelligent--all the characters talk and, sometimes, act like real people.
And, thankfully, no stupid in-jokes or character to provide "comic" relief.
Everything is dealt with seriously which just adds to the tension. The
setting is scary--the "house" (actually an abandoned asylum) LOOKS evil, and
inside it's all darkness and cobwebs. The acting...well...Rush is having a
GREAT time in his role, and it rubbed off on me. Every time he was on
screen I enjoyed it. The rest of the cast is OK, but anyone could have
played these roles...they were just mostly reacting to special effects. The
only real disappointment here was Taye Diggs. He showed that he had
charisma, could act and has a GREAT body in previous flicks ("How Stella Got
Her Groove Back"; "GO"; "The Wood"). So why does he give such a so-so
performance here--he's even worse in "The Best Man". Hopefully he'll start
I also heard about lousy CGI effects in this movie. When the CGI effects go barreling out of control at the end though, I was scared! I'm a veteran of hundreds (literally) of horror films so I don't scare easy. The only weak part was a real stupid "surprise" at the end that comes out of nowhere. Other than that it worked.
So, this is a good, scary horror film. Worth shelling out full price at a cinema--DON'T wait for the video. This works great in a dark theatre with excellent stereo sound--it won't work on a TV.
The similarities between William Castle's campy 1959 original and this typical Hollywood remake are kept to a minimum. We have the premise of 5 people who're offered a million $ if they survive spending a night in 'the house' and Rush who brings tribute to Vincent Price (who played the lead role in the original). Other than this, Malone just follows the routine remake-standards meaning bigger, louder and more spectacular. If you're not too harsh, this actually is a pretty enjoyable movie and at times a successful mixture between an old-fashioned 'haunted house' chiller and a modern special effects playground. Thanks to some sort of miracle, Malone managed to cast class actor Geoffrey Rush and a more than decent supportive cast. Rush is talented enough to make his performance of eccentric impresario Steven Price look like a homage to Vincent Price instead of doing a lame impersonation. To me, however, the absolute star of this film is Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) who plays the small role of the demented Dr. Vannacutt. As usual, Combs' character is the cause of all horror and his grimaces are more diabolical then ever. He's an amazing horror icon and I simply can't get why he isn't enjoying an immortal success-status. Until about 5 minutes before the ending, the use of CGI is imaginative and not irritating at all. The finale is overly fake and kinda ruins the film. If you're not too demanding, The House on Haunted Hill guarantees a lot of fun and a few scares. Definitely a better remake than Jan De Bont's The Haunting and Steve Beck's 13 Ghosts.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
House on Haunted Hill, my first rated R movie I saw in the theater,
huge deal since I was only 13 at the time. But anyways, House on
Haunted Hill is of course remake of the same title, back in the day the
original star of the movie was Vincent Price, it was spooky and creepy,
the only problem? The original has some what lost it's effect it had on
people, don't get me wrong, it's still an excellent film, but compared
to a lot of horror films of today, it seems rather tame. So of course,
you know what that means
Let's remake the story and add tons of
computer CGI and gore! But was this remake really that bad? Actually
I'd say that I did enjoy it, it had good suspense and very grizzly
images that will stay in your head. It's a pretty decent update of this
chilling ghost story and never lets go.
The film is set in an abandoned asylum, where numerous murders were committed in the past. The head of the facility, Dr. Richard B. Vannacutt, performed grotesque experiments and medical procedures on the patients, killing many in the process. The hospital was closed when some of the patients escaped, killing almost the entire staff and burning the hospital. We then meet Evelyn, a spoiled trophy wife, and Steven Price, an amusement park mogul with a wicked sense of humor, each of whom would gladly kill the other. Evelyn fancies spectacular parties, so Steven leases the house from the owner, Watson Pritchett, for his Halloween birthday bash. Evelyn gives Steven a guest list two pages long; he shreds it to spite her and then creates one of his own. The five people who show up for the party: Jennifer Jenzer, Eddie Baker, Melissa Margaret Marr, Dr. Donald Blackburn and Pritchett himself aren't the ones he invited. Neither Evelyn nor Steven know who they are. Despite this, Price continues the party's theme, offering a million dollars to anyone who stays in the house and survives until morning. Of course this isn't any easy task as the ghosts are about and ready for a bloody good time.
While I would recommend for nostalgic reasons to stick to the original as it is a true classic, I say that this remake is still worth the look. It's definitely worth it in the dark, I can't tell how much this one scene frightened me beyond compare when the reporter is filming in the basement to get an idea of what the asylum was like and the ghosts only appear on camera, she sees them torturing a patient and they look up at her and goosebumps are the least of your worries at this point. All in all, this is a very decent remake compared to other sad remakes we had that year like The Haunting. But still I wonder what Vincent Price would say if he was able to see how they updated the story maybe even do his little "rap" Thriller style! You know I had to get that in.
I've never seen William Castle's original from 1958,but in my opinion 1999 version isn't completely bad.Director William Malone creates some atmosphere and suspense during the first hour,but everything is almost completely ruined by awful ending.There's some good gore,striking visuals and atmospheric sets,but the conclusion is absolutely lame(the CGI effects look really fake!).If you like horror movies give this one a look,just don't expect something impressive.
THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1999) ***
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Chris Kattan, Peter Gallagher, and Bridgette Wilson Director: William Malone Running Time: 96 minutes Rated R (for strong terror violence and gore, language and brief nudity)
By Blake French:
It's been such a long time since I have been truly terrified by a movie that is supposed to be scary. To my pleasant surprise, however, "The House on Haunted Hill," did scare me out of my wits at times. Curiously, I find myself disliking the film because of the flawed characters and structure, yet recommending it due to the enticing and thrilling material contained within the tension-filled story line.
The first thing I would like to do in reviewing "The House on Haunted Hill," is compare and contrast it with the milder horror flick released earlier this year called "The Haunting." That film surprised America with an unexpected PG-13 rating, unlike the appropriately R-rated "The House on Haunted Hill." Although "The Haunting" did work due to an intriguing story line, it missed the fact that in order to please an audience attending a scream-feast, it needs to do some experimenting with its atmosphere, characters, and antagonism so we know what we're up against. That film had little to no violent, gory, or shocking material, only contained marginally passable psychological terror. That is the main reason why that very film, directed by Jon De Bont, didn't manage to become a memorable summer movie experience.
Unlike "The Haunting," "The House on Haunted Hill," is not afraid to graphically pick off its characters one by one in a grizzly manor to provoke horrifying fright in an audience. It is great fun to predict who is going to be next to go and how they'll be murdered. Personally, I've been longing for this kind of material for quite some time now.
This film does, however, have a lot in common with "The Haunting." For example, both movies are shot in somewhat of an old-fashioned style--an effective characteristic. Both offer quite a bit of scary material. But "The House on Haunted Hill" seems to be more of an ambitious, if flawed, thriller. The story centers on a clan of five strangers who each are offered one million dollars if they spend the night in a closed-down Psychiatric Institute that was massacred by its own patients after a rebellion in the 1930's. In charge of this whole arrangement, a twisted and rich theme park owner, Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush), and his wife, Evelyn (Famke Janssen), who have been experiencing marital problems for some time now. They're throwing together this party for Price's birthday, but when an elaborate and efficient security system traps them in, weird events begin to occur. Things that may or may not be part of an intricate plan to induce money, murder, and survival.
What, or who, is responsible the unusual assurances at the institute? How did the guest list of the party mysteriously alter itself? What is happening to everyone if this entire situation is a prank? Are these characters that stupid? What exactly is the instate haunted by? Why did the patients rebel in the 30's, and not sooner? Their motives are clear, but why wait so long to do something about the hell accruing because of their doctors? "The House on Haunted Hill" is not the movie to answer these questions. Neither is it the film educated enough to properly develop an explanation of the characters to us. Stephen Price is developed well in one of the film's first scenes. But for the rest of the characters, each of them saying their name and what they do for a living doesn't quite cut it here. Because of this, the movie's many plot and character twists aren't as effective as they should be, because we don't know the characters to begin with. So if the movie tries to tell us that someone is not who they appear to be, how are we supposed to believe it--we never really knew who they were from the beginning?
Also to this film's dismay, the direction is all over the wall here. William Malone does a good job of focusing on each of the scary elements, but not on the characters. When they walk slowly down a dark deserted hallway, they seem to get off focus of where they really are and the circumstances they are in. Also nearly crucifying the production: there aren't any boundaries here. Seemingly anything and everything can happen. At least "The Haunting" had some guidelines of where reality is taken into account.
The Psychiatric Institute is a perfect, terrifying atmosphere for this movie to be placed in. The fact that the strange and seemingly dangerous occurrences could be part of Price's trickery, or something else on that matter, just strengthens the drama more and increase the line of raising tension. The filmmakers take advantage of most of the opportunities they receive to use the house's many dark hallways and creepy chambers. In particular, there is a especially disturbing sequence in a chamber, which is supposed to make an insane man sane, or a sane man insane, that produces such a horrifying perspective of a character's mind, it is almost safe to say the filmmakers went too far over the edge here.
I also find to my liking the film's performances, which are creative and full of energy. Geoffrey Rush is a great stuck up fraud, and he is able to accomplish much with his character due to his wonderfully fresh development, unlike the other characters. Famke Janssen ("Deep Rising," 1998) I also am surprised to enjoy, in a sly, conniving role. Taye Diggs can't really do much in this type of movie, he is more fit in films like "The Best Man," or "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," but what he does seems underplayed. Who really stands out here is the always appealing Peter Gallagher, who brings a hidden regularity to his character. But regardless of his character, he doesn't scene-steal, nor does he overact.
"The House on Haunted Hill" may be a very flawed film, but at lest it serves its purpose: to provoke fear in an audience. It is a very close call for me, recommending the film or not, and a medium review is given. Someday I might regret my decision to warrant "The House on Haunted Hill" with a minor recommendation. But as of this day and age, I feel obligated to.
Brought to you by Warner Bros.
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