On Halloween in 1999, my father and I headed to the old Regal Cinemas off of Hurt Road. This was the first year of an over ten year tradition of seeing a horror film in theaters on Halloween with him. This was a couple of weeks after we had already seen the remake of The Haunting (1963). These were good film choices, but ultimately House on Haunted Hill would win for an actual viewing on Halloween. This is not to say the remake of The Haunting is awful, but House on Haunted Hill is way better of the two haunted house flicks.
What most might not know is that House on Haunted Hill is also a remake of the 1959 Vincent Price classic of the same name. The original feature has caused a bit of a debate as to if the house is truly haunted or not over the years.
The remake does not handle the feature in such a way. The debate in the original feature stems from how most would consider the effects used in 1959 to be cheap and ineffective so that some consider that they were also set ups by Frederick (Price) and/or his fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart). Some also believe they were merely hallucinations Nora (Carolyn Craig) suffered.
One of the other interesting beliefs of the original feature is the fact that the house turned those who had animosity against each other so that they would commit the murders instead of so-called “ghosts” within the house. While the remake does not go down any of the aforementioned paths, they choose to navigate the film in its own interesting way that captures audiences attention and maintains their attention for the duration of the film.
The basic plot of the remake is similar to the original venture. Stephen Price (Geoffrey Rush), is an eccentric millionaire with a rather unique relationship with his wife, Evelyn Stockard-Price (Famke Janssen). Agreeing to throw her a birthday party that she will never forget, Price throws out his wife’s guest list and opts for a guest list of his own. Little does he know there are some powers at be that decides that neither of them will be getting what they desire that evening. The night of the party, Price offers $1,000,000 to each person who can successfully stay the night in the so-called Haunted House with a uniquely murderous past. The majority of those there are determined this is a story made up in order to get most of them to leave without their money.
As the night goes on, however, they discover there might be more to the story than meets the eye. In the original feature, the main difference is the prize was $10,000. Either way I would be happy about the prize money. Who would complain about either in this economy? That is neither here nor there I suppose. The film might not raise a ton of interesting questions, but it does make one wonder what they would do if they were in the same situation. Should or would one risk their life for money? Would one be the various characters in the film who just believe such rumors were being admitted to them to scare them away from the money? Who knows what one would truly do in such a situation, but I would hope that person would be able to survive such for what is considered the ultimate goal.
In addition to the amazing update to a classic, the acting is superb. First and foremost I have to gush about the one and only Geoffrey Rush. Let me start by saying that it truly freaked me out how much he actually looks like Vincent Price in this update. Upon beginning to watch the feature, I blinked a couple of times and looked around to see if anyone else was seeing what I happened to be viewing. For some reason or another this did not register with me because Rush’s look was that convincing. To this day when I watch the film once more, the fact that Rush is able to capture Vincent Price the way he does still amazes me.
Taye Diggs character, Eddie Baker, is also one of my favorites within the film. There are various lines that his character states, which will make one laugh and that is never a bad thing. The same thing can be said about the brief appearances by Chris Katan’s character, Watson Pritchett. His character is nothing more than comedic relief that is needed as well as the man willing to give everyone the truth behind the house. And as all viewers know in all horror films there needs to be that one guy who manages to know everything there is to know that no one is willing to believe.
Peter Gallagher gives his usual performance and the addition of Jeffery Combs sporadically spread throughout the film is genius.
Bridgette Wilson is one of my favorite actresses and most of the time I feel she is completely underrated. She plays Miss Marr within the film and one can tell she goes back and forth with wanting to believe and wishing she could ignore what she she has seen.
Famke Janssen is brilliant as as Evelyn Price. She has the perfect combination of compassion and bitchiness that makes her performance pitch perfect.
And last but not least there is Ali Larter. Audiences know that her character, Sara Wolfe is not what meets the eyes, but she makes viewers yearn to know exactly what is going on with her character the entire film. The truth is everyone in the film gives perfect portrayals, even those that seem like they do not mean anything at all. I say this because of the scene where Price takes a reporter and her cameraman on one hell of a ride.
Overall, House on Haunted Hill is one of my absolute favorite horror films. There is just something about the film that is as creepy as the film is fun. That is what keeps me coming back for more time and time again. In terms of haunted house flicks and remakes, this one is by far one of the best around. In my opinion it ranks right up there with the remake of Thirteen Ghosts (2001). That is another film one should check out if they enjoy this remake.
Let me state that this film is not for the faint of the heart though. The film is full of special effects and when there is gore there is lots of it. The blood is not used sparingly when applied within this film. There are large amounts used, especially in a particular scene with Miss Ali Larter. The thrills and chills are within the film. In fact when someone approached me at the theater, who had seen the same film they scared the crap out of me at the time. The film gives one some sort of anxiety that stays with them will after the feature is over. There is nothing wrong with such in terms of a horror film. After all that is the whole point of going to see a horror and thriller.
This film in particular should make one so scared that they at least look over their shoulder or around the corner to make sure they’re alone in the house for a few hours or so. Embrace being anxious, embrace the horrific events! Make sure to view this film sometime before Halloween season is over.
If you are intrested in renting House on Haunted Hill, make sure to check out this title through your local Austell Blockbuster, Videodrome, Movies Worth Seeing, Netflix, or movie channels based upon your cable or satellite provider around Halloween. To purchase any Blu-rays or DVDs mentioned in this review please check out your local Austell Best Buy, Walmart, Target, or Kmart.