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House on Haunted Hill

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: House on Haunted Hill

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janseen
Director: William Malone
Rated: R
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: October 1999
Genres: Comedy, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Review by John Beachem
1 star out of 4

In a Hollywood slowly growing devoid of original ideas, the current trend is to remake the movies of old. How the 1958 Vincent Price vehicle "House on Haunted Hill" was ever chosen for a remake will remain a mystery. While the original film was a fun, cheesy, "b" horror movie, the remake only possesses one of those qualities. I'll allow you to guess to which one I refer.

Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush) is a multi-millionaire, who has acquired his fortune by creating a series of terrifying amusement parks. His wife, Evelyn (Famke Janssen), is utterly miserable in their marriage, but remains with her husband for his money. Her latest idea for how to spend his cash, is to rent an old, abandoned mental institute and hold a party. Steven, however, has different plans. Inviting four strangers in place of Evelyn's chosen guests (Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, Bridgette Wilson, Peter Gallagher), Steven offers one million dollars to anyone who can survive a night in the house.

It will forever remain a mystery to me, how great actors are occasionally drawn to horrible scripts. Geoffrey Rush acts terrifically in almost anything he is cast in. Here, however, he so shamelessly overacts that you'll find your teeth grinding whenever a word comes out of his mouth. The other actors are uniformly terrible, the only exception being Chris Kattan (A Night at the Roxbury) as the owner of the house, who is given the film's few funny lines, and seems to realize what a terrible movie he's in.

I try to find something positive in every movie I see, so here goes. Chris Kattan's performance is one of the few hightlights here, along with three or four truly eerie scenes in the first 45 minutes of the movie. Among them, a scene in which a long dead doctor's ghost begins stalking one of the characters, and where an angry spirit flies from a corner at a character with a video camera. The amusement park rides shown during Steven Price's introduction are quite entertaining, as well.

Now, onto the majority of the movie. The characters here, with the exception of Kattan's Watson Pritchett and Rush's Steven Price, possess no character whatsoever. A character dies, and all one can think is "who was that?" while blood covers the screen. The story attempts one or two shocking moments, though they can be predicted far in advance. Speaking of predictable events, when the characters were first introduced, I was able to pick out the survivors right away.

As I said, there are a few eerie parts in the movie, but just as these begin to show promise, the last 45 minutes of the film turn into one long, boring chase scene for no apparent reason. I normally don't give away plot points like this, but I felt obliged to point the following out. The effects are, for the most part, rather well done, but the chase scene which is the film's finale offers one of the most moronic looking ghosts I have ever seen.

If you're desperate for another haunted house movie, I reccomend seeing the original version of "House on Haunted Hill" or the original "The Haunting". If you feel like dishonoring Vincent Price's memory, go ahead and catch this. Otherwise, I reccomend everyone steer clear. "The House on Haunted Hill" runs too long at 115 minutes. I grant it a charitable two stars.

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Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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