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  • Gareth Crook

House on Haunted Hill (1999) - 3/10

After watching the fantastic 1959 original, I’m expecting to be a little disappointed with this. The premise is the same, random group of strangers (or are they), invited to a spooky venue for the night. Get through it and pocket some money. The haunted house is actually an asylum this time. It too has a history and quite a horrible one with a doctor Vannacutt doing unspeakable things to patients who revolt and torch the building. Lots of ghosts. In the present day we’re introduced to Stephen Price (Geoffrey Rush) with a terrible moustache (clearly a dodgy ode to Vincent Price) and 90s sunglasses being interviewed by Lisa Loeb. It really could get much more 90s in style and feels oddly more outdated than the original that’s 40 years older. He’s got money and is not getting on with his spoilt wife Evelyn (Famke Janssen). She wants a birthday party in the asylum that she’s seen on TV and so guests are invited as Marilyn Manson sings ‘Sweet Dreams’. It tries too hard to be scary. Thats its main issue. It doesn’t engage. The couple enter the house with 4 guests, plus Pritchett (Chris Katten) who’s connected to the ‘house’ and its history. They’re not the guests Stephen or Emily though. Something is going on. Two of those things are terrible acting and shockingly bad editing. I’ve nothing against a nonlinear narrative but this is an absolute mess. With everyone locked in, it’s survival time. Pritchett didn’t want to stay, he knows the danger, but like everyone else, sets about finding a way to get out. It seems that they’ve all quickly forgotten about the game to stay until dawn, but it struggles with details in general. No one trusts anyone and perhaps rightly so. Stephen for instance has Schecter (Max Perlich) in the basement. Watching on CCTV and pulling switches to scare the guests. Stephen you see runs theme parks and this is his gimmick. It does all feel like theme park faire to be fair. Before long, they’re all wandering around abandoned corridors with flickering lights and upturned wheelchairs, that lead to filthy creepy rooms with cobwebs and hospital beds. There are some neat devices and decent effects, it’s not all jump scares, but the cast are so damn annoying, you want them to all get killed as fast as possible for this to be over. The original for its flaws has purpose, this has none. Just lots of visuals that wouldn’t look out of place in a NIN video. A truly terrible film. Don’t bother, just watch the original.



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