Produced in 1999, House on Haunted Hill is actually a remake from the first iteration produced in 1959 starring Vincent Price. The premise goes like this – eccentric amusement park owner offers a group of hand picked guests $1million to spend a night in a haunted house. A house that was formerly a mental asylum with a demented doctor who used to perform some pretty terrible experiments on his patients.
The house turns out to have its own agenda then the host had intended and through a series of nightmarish encounters, the house consumes the guests one by one. The history of the house and its former inhabitants plays a large role in the presentation of the film with many of the former atrocities (such as electro-shock therapy) playing out in the experiences of the house’s current guests.
Directing and design-wise, the film is produced well (with the exception of some of the CG towards the end) with lots of twitchy-head scary types cutting in and out along with a copious amount of quick cuts to keep the tense moments tense.
The writing is decent although some of the dialog gets a bit cartoonish at times (see Geoffrey Rush’s and Chris Kattan’s dialog for examples). Overall, the script is solid and has the necessary ingredients for a film like this.
With regard to acting, the movie has a strong lineup that includes Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher, Ali Larter alongside the aforementioned Geoffrey Rush and Chris Kattan. The actors are all pretty average with everyone putting in a decent performance. My only complaints is that both Rush and Kattan’s characters were a bit too over-the-top in terms of how they were written and played. I don’t mind big characters but there is such a thing as too big.
If you’ve never seen House on Haunted Hill and are into horror, catch up with this one to decide if its worthy to be considered one of the new classics…
reviewed by Sean McKnight