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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.65%
Worth A Look: 23.53%
Average: 20.26%
Pretty Bad26.14%
Total Crap: 12.42%

7 reviews, 111 user ratings

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House on Haunted Hill (1999)
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by Andrew Howe

"Mindless, but not entirely stupid."
3 stars

From the Collins English Dictionary definition of pariah: “A person who enjoys a film which has every other right-thinking person reaching for the ‘terminate with extreme prejudice’ button on their remote control”.

From the Collins English Dictionary definition of sucker for punishment: “Someone who makes these feelings public”.

I say this without qualification – House on Haunted Hill is not a bad film. It’s not going to set the world on fire, it’s not going to shoot into anybody’s top 100 with a bullet, but when it comes to mindless entertainment it’s up there with the best.

Here’s the drill: six strangers front up to an abandoned asylum, lured by the promise that anyone who makes it through the night will receive a cool million bucks, courtesy of their smug and self-assured host (Geoffrey Rush). Lots of people die. Roll credits.

Is the plot ridiculous? Certainly, but no more so than the latest big-budget action flick. The script features enough twists that you’re never entirely sure where you stand, overlaying a potentially straightforward tale of supernatural dismemberment with a litany of deception. It’s no Sleuth, but it’s a pleasant surprise to realise that, just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, there’s another curve ball waiting in the wings.

Are the characters graduates from central casting? Certainly, but the actors manage to invest these sketchy creations with a little more life than a schlockfest generally requires. If you warmed to Rush in Mystery Men you’ll love him here – he seems to have decided that, if he’s going to take parts in movies which won’t be earning him any Academy Award nominations, he’s damn well going to earn his paycheque. His dry, unflappable style is perfectly suited to the role, and his tongue-in-cheek delivery invites the viewer to enjoy the proceedings as much as he does.

The remaining actors range from the mildly memorable to the borderline serviceable, but nobody could be accused of phoning in their performance (except for Famke Jannsen, who looks like she wishes she was somewhere else). Ali Larter and Taye Diggs are especially noteworthy, for they provide the kind of likeable performances that are essential to the success of any film which invites the viewer to stake a claim in the survival of the protagonists.

However, what really sets this film apart is the atmosphere. The opening sequence is truly disturbing, and from that moment on the script dedicates itself to unsettling the viewer by playing on our primal fear of winding up in a snake-pit asylum. There’s massive metal shutters slamming home, glimpses of murderous doctors wielding razor-sharp implements, gut-churning dream sequences on the road to madness, the dimming of the lights as the electroshock switch is thrown, doorways leading to places no sane person would dare to tread, cacophonous wailing in the distance – if you suspend your disbelief and allow it to insinuate itself into your subconscious you’ll be having nightmares for a week (and that, after all, is the aim of any good horror flick).

Unfortunately, the film takes a turn for the worse in the final third, jettisoning its innovations in favour of a predictable finale. Up to that moment the scriptwriter avoids the most unforgivable cliches of the genre - the characters, by and large, behave in a rational manner (as opposed to, say, deciding to check out those strange noises by yourself), and the “cheap shock” technique is used sparingly and effectively. However, the convoluted plot finally collapses under its own weight, leaving our heroes to face a creature which looks like it was left over from the House films (not to mention the final scene, in which the survivors act like they’ve just returned from a picnic in the sun, enjoying a hearty laugh at the expense of their murdered comrades).

This is a major disappointment, for if the scriptwriters had possessed the guts to stick to their guns the film could have been something for horror fans to talk about for years to come. As it stands, however, it is still worthy of our attention, and it’s certainly a cut above the current crop of exploitative slasher flicks. My advice is to leave that remote alone, and let the film work itself into the darkest reaches of your subconscious - it won’t exercise your grey matter, but it may well give your inner child pause for thought.

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originally posted: 09/16/01 11:48:41
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User Comments

11/02/11 kenny chill out it's pretty fun 3 stars
1/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Bloated needless remake for teenieboppers. 1 stars
9/19/09 Pavel It's a great underrated horror movie! A lot better than the original. 5 stars
8/28/08 Shaun Wallner Great Horror film!! 5 stars
6/14/08 Karrie M scary and full of gore, it was alright, started out good anyways 3 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday I don't remember much about this, but I do remember not liking it very much. 2 stars
1/27/07 action movie fan not scary, lame remake of lame film-don,t bother 2 stars
12/22/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
12/14/06 Browncoat What are you people, a bunch of fucking back-births?This movie sucks! 1 stars
10/28/06 matt a very underrated film, good imagery and scares throughout 4 stars
6/04/06 William Goss Surprisingly well-acted, creepily atmospheric, and just lots of fun. Somewhat underrated. 4 stars
5/26/06 Michele cool coaster at the beginning, nice to see james marsters 3 stars
1/03/06 cody a ok gory and spooky horror flick, ok actors , two problems were thin plot and silly scares 2 stars
11/07/05 Lauren A great, splashy, spooky, horror flick! A lot of fun. 5 stars
8/12/05 ES Way better than 'the Haunting', Rush is the man 4 stars
7/02/05 Indrid Cold Surprisingly nasty, semi-humorous tone makes it worth a look. Somewhat underrated. 3 stars
6/11/05 Anthony G Not bad, could of been better though 3 stars
5/10/05 Roger Roller coaster & Geoffrey Rush - both great. A fun movie. 4 stars
3/26/05 Denise loved the rollercoaster 4 stars
3/25/05 indrid cold Bad, but surprisingly over the top, which makes it watchable. 2 stars
3/17/05 Alice Colwell not bad 3 stars
3/13/05 Tamara Burks This movie is a blast and Geoffrey Rush does a great impression olf Vincent Price. 5 stars
3/04/05 Chris Stephens It was OK 3 stars
2/28/05 Diane Stedner Great. 5 stars
2/26/05 James Kiang Despite an over-the-top Rush, this was a pleasant surprise genre film. 3 stars
2/22/05 Debora Browning Thiis was a decent horror flick 4 stars
2/21/05 fiona it was well made, but...just a non event for me. I expected more. 2 stars
2/20/05 Carolyn Rathburn Gory, senseless violence, didn't care for it. 2 stars
2/19/05 Denise good 4 stars
2/19/05 Brenda Riley Couldn't compare with the original! 3 stars
10/16/04 Don Eckert The 14% that thought this was Awesome must be a kindergarten class. 1 stars
8/20/04 justin i liked it it was awsome i wana no what that song at the end was bye 5 stars
4/24/04 star seen it 5 times, the spinning room is a trip, blood fun, all else sucks 3 stars
2/14/04 Naturezrevenge Abysmal reviews, jacob's ladder meets hellraiser imagery,not as abysmal as one would think. 4 stars
2/08/04 john bale Rush is not Vincent Price and this remake is no better than the first 3 stars
1/05/04 Janey Let down by a bad ending - should have kept plot more realistic. 3 stars
11/02/03 American Slasher Goddess Rush and Janssen turn in good hammy perfomances, but otherwise it's pretty unspectacular. 2 stars
10/02/03 Mopsa I admit it: I loved this movie! Scary and funny and misunderstood 5 stars
9/06/03 Andrew This is actually a rather good film. The soundtrack is great! 4 stars
7/14/03 Samuel Justus Most likely one of the best ever! 13 ghosts and Ghost Ship were good but this was better! 5 stars
6/20/03 Mystique revolting, cool, frightening and RUSH ROCKS ! 3 stars
11/24/02 Charles Tatum Lousy ending, but scary all the way through 4 stars
10/03/02 snowconehead Chris Kattan gets killed, which justifies the rating 4 stars
2/01/02 Ashley Corpening look up WASTED in dictionary -oughta find casting of Bridgette Wilson & Ali Larter in this! 2 stars
1/12/02 Audra I loved the movie. Not really scary. Only Famke and Chris were good in the movie. 5 stars
1/04/02 Andrew Carden Good Premise To The Original, but Very Weak and Not Scary At All. 2 stars
12/04/01 auroradae the best horror movie i have seen, and i've seen many, i was actually scared once 5 stars
12/01/01 Joe The begining is awesome.. the middle part is all right.. then the last bites ass 3 stars
10/20/01 Tam TOTAL BOLLOCKS! Boring, tedious, over-acted! BIGGEST STINKER IN HISTORY! 1 stars
10/17/01 Hum some good ideas but this film is sooooo dumb! 2 stars
10/04/01 mark conway this movie was no more than average, with little thrills or scares. 3 stars
8/29/01 Sarah I wasn't scared at ALL!It was suppose to be a horror movie at what moment? 1 stars
8/10/01 Audra I couldn't finish the movie; it was way too gory. But there were scary scenes. 2 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Some genuinely creepy moments, but the end is worse than blue balls. 4 stars
7/21/01 Robert closest to a scary movie i have seen in a long time 5 stars
7/11/01 ALEXIS Hey I thought it was pretty scary, but the ending was kinda crappy 4 stars
6/19/01 King Jackass Your crazy... this is an awesome movie! 5 stars
6/18/01 Monster W. Kung Could've been decent if they kept ripping off Tool videos, but as it was it sucked, badly. 1 stars
5/14/01 Amorill Great horror movie. Although I must admit that the ending was way too nice and predictabl. 5 stars
4/19/01 Tam Tedious crap, with plenty of gore but no scares. Wooden acting & a bad script didnt help. 1 stars
3/23/01 Terrie Smith Not much with this one; Geoffrey Rush receiving a easy pay cheque for doing nothing. 2 stars
3/11/01 Yamara Better than X-Files At Sea. No, wait, *I* made that movie. No, it sucks. Chris Kattan rocks 3 stars
3/04/01 ThunderCloud Matrix I loved the movie mostly because of the orginal wicked-asylum plot, but the acting sucked. 4 stars
3/01/01 John Trent Yeah,one of the best horror films ever!Loved the ending,buy the dvd and see the alt ending! 5 stars
2/17/01 Steven Armet I still can't sleep at night almost as scarry as deliverance 5 stars
2/11/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi I was too busy committing suicide to finish watching it... 2 stars
2/01/01 Vivien Leung i just wanna know how they could get down at last? ( bloody but not scary) urghhhh!!! 1 stars
1/16/01 Aurora This was the fisrt horror movie to actually scare me for almost a decade! It was horrific! 5 stars
11/05/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble A bad movie made worse by bad writing. 1 stars
10/29/00 Timothy L. Herzog Lame... 2 stars
10/23/00 John medium scares, good plot, really bad ending 3 stars
7/23/00 Woerkilt Better than most "Hollow"wood feces-on-film. Blood, severed heads and acid-trip ghoulies. 4 stars
6/08/00 Lizzard Queen The movie started out great and had some great visuals, but the ending was a disappointment 4 stars
6/06/00 Bender The first 20 minutes are good, but the movie becomes less and less interesting 3 stars
5/13/00 melissa honke is the house true as in is it R 4 stars
4/18/00 Ken Krysa I liked it better than The Haunting. Creepy and great visuals. 5 stars
4/09/00 EMagGaRony nothing special, , what's with "scary" movies that don't even scare you?? 3 stars
3/19/00 Joel Harwood . 4 stars
3/03/00 Matthew Bartley A lot better than I thought it would be, Dodgy ending though 4 stars
3/03/00 Patrick Annis-Brown Very creepy, but a sucky ending 4 stars
2/21/00 jj it is cool 4 stars
2/16/00 Add Started interesting then the budget took over, damn it, this really sucked!! 1 stars
2/12/00 arnold blew haunting away,kattan is great,ending sucked,and there was some pretty cool horror bits 4 stars
11/22/99 Phreezer Good (Stay for til' the very end of the credits or miss out on some creepy shit) 4 stars
11/20/99 Amy Spencer awesome! 5 stars
11/13/99 merrip absolutely beautiful set design and awesome visual/audio stuff. ending sucks all ass. 3 stars
11/11/99 Buttman suck-tastic 2 stars
11/11/99 Queen of the Amazon Vamps I want to hop on Famke Janssen twice! 1 stars
11/10/99 Ryan Philippe gets hit by a car and it rules I hate you Kenny 5 stars
11/08/99 focus not as bad as The Haunting, but still a craptacular movie 2 stars
11/08/99 Ben Ryan Is it possible for a movie to ever live up to the previews? no! 2 stars
11/07/99 JonnyAngel I was gonna write a review, but Hawk did it for me 3 stars
11/07/99 great....exept for the end... 4 stars
11/07/99 Obi Wan Was pretty good up until about 25mins to go, felt like movie was rushed to ending!! ROBBED! 2 stars
11/05/99 "bob" i saw this movie while i was high,it scared THE SHIT out of me! 5 stars
11/05/99 Jonathan Pinkerton Somewhat scary must mostly a gorefest 3 stars
11/03/99 Delta Yankee I liked the original a hell of a lot better. 2 stars
11/02/99 PhilmPhreak Well, it was better than The Hauntimg. 3 stars
11/02/99 Mac The chick should have killed Taye, pulled the checks from her blouse, house then kills her 2 stars
11/02/99 Stephanie The ending sucked! What a letdown! 1 stars
11/01/99 Arshad Nice sets, effects, TERRIBLE dialog, plot 3 stars
11/01/99 Phil. God damnit, the ending sucked. God damnit! It was probably rushed for halloween. Or not? 1 stars
11/01/99 Lucas Coffey It should've cut everyone up and went with the after credit ending. 4 stars
11/01/99 Vampyre9mm Good gore, but that's about it. Stupid plot, bad characters, TERRIBLE ending. 2 stars
11/01/99 mason the original is one of my favorites and this is suprisingly bad-ass , except for the ending 5 stars
10/31/99 pixie one of the scariest movie's i have seen... UNTIL the end. inconsistent ,& suck dead ass. 4 stars
10/31/99 Dylan Great movie but worst ending ever. Seems like it was thrown together at last minute 4 stars
10/31/99 Lame-Oh Not as good as The Haunting, but still a sorry-ass movie 2 stars
10/30/99 Odd Pieman 80% of this movie is scarey as sweet jesus but becomes a horrible piece of crap at the end. 4 stars
10/30/99 Steve Price Inconsistent with horrible dialogue, but some creepy moments & a cool Chris Kattan 4 stars
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  29-Oct-1999 (R)



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