House on Haunted Hill (1999)

05/31/2018 07:34

Film: House on Haunted Hill

Year: 1999

Director: William Malone

Writer: Dick Beebe

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen and Taye Diggs



This film is a part of the 1990’s ‘Floating Heads’ era of horror. I actually saw this film in the theaters with my mother and sister. At the time I had no idea it was a remake and was pretty impressed with what I saw. Before I get too much into this, the synopsis of the film is an amusement park mogul offers a group of diverse people $1,000,000 to spend the night in a haunted house with a horrifying past.

Now it starts out back in 1931. We are inside of a mental hospital. It is run by Dr. Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs). The inmates though decide they have had enough and kill all of the staff, minus 5 people. We then shift to the present where we see this is an episode of Strange, But True showcasing the history of the place. Evelyn Stockard-Price (Famke Janssen) is watching from her bathtub. She calls her husband, Stephen Price (Geoffrey Rush), stating that she wants to have her birthday party there.

She sends over a guest list, which Stephen shreds and he starts to write one of his own. When he leaves though, it is deleted and something starts to make a new one. The names that are put on this new list have ties to the house and they are all locked in once they arrive.

Remakes can be a tricky thing. A lot of people hate them and Hollywood for not coming up with an original idea. In the case of this one, I dig it. It brings enough of the original film back, like Stephen and Evelyn hate each other and want the other one dead. We also bring back that Stephen does have some tricks up his sleeve for this evening. What I really like about it though is that they decided to go a different route with the history. I love that this place is a former mental hospital and that there are really ghosts. When this film first came out, it terrified me. Having seen it a few times it doesn’t have the same effect, but there are still parts that make me feel uneasy even after all the viewings.

It does come with its problems. The people that are invited have ties to house, but with the revealing of characters, this becomes problematic. The ending is a little bit too cheesy for my liking. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of how the evil in this film was portrayed. Throughout the whole thing we get good looking ghosts and then the evil manifested was a let down.

The editing though is good. It doesn’t take too long to get going and even before the house it gives us some uneasy feelings. I think the tension does build throughout the film. The climax is fast paced and isn’t a complete letdown. It just has some aspects of it that I wasn’t completely on board with.

I do think that the acting was pretty good. Rush is really good in his role. I love that he was going for John Waters, but ends up looking like Vincent Price, who starred in the original version of the film. He just portrays such strong characters. Janssen is beautiful and brings enough bitchiness to the role. The rest of the participants are fine. They all play different characters and they work well together. They are Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher, Chris Kattan, Ali Larter and Bridgette Wilson-Sampras. Also I have to give a shout-out to Combs. He is a horror icon and the scariest part of this film.

The effects of this film were good as well. This is surprising for the era that it came out, but they went practical for a lot of it. What was done with CGI doesn’t look bad outside of the entity at the end. This film did some interesting things with speeding up some footage and it terrified me as a kid. This film has a vibe of Hellrasier and Event Horizon, which I thought fit for the depraved things that were happening here. The creatures and ghosts looked good as well.

Sound design for the film didn’t really stand out to me. I don’t have anything negative to say about it. The scenes creeped me out so the score selection was good for what they needed. The only thing I do know is that I love the Marilyn Manson rendition of Sweet Dreams for the film. It fits perfectly and has such a haunting quality to it.

Now with that said, I think this is a pretty solid remake of a horror classic. I personally think that the best thing to do there is to bring enough of the original concept or story, but make it your own which this one does. I thought the idea of invitees to the party was good. The editing definitely helps to build this story and tension that it needs. The climax is good, but the ending is a letdown. The entity at the end I wasn’t a fan of, but the effects outside of that were good. There is some really good acting as well as others in support. I didn’t see any issues there. The score of the film didn’t stand out, but I have no negatives on it either. This film is an above average ghost story that has some really good aspects to it. I also would say one of the better remakes as well. I would recommend giving this one a viewing if you are into these types of films.


My Rating: 7 out of 10