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
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.
Feel free to e-mail with comments at: JABII@aol.com
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem