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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 David Cornelius

"One of the great underrated horror flicks of the last decade. Yes, really."
5 stars

I’m usually averse to remakes, especially if the remake is of a particular favorite. And yet the 1999 version of “House On Haunted Hill,” a retooling of one such particular favorite, is in its own right one of my very favorite horror flicks. Go figure.

“Haunted Hill” updates the 1958 B movie classic of the same name, starring Vincent Price and directed by that master of promotional gimmicks, William Castle, who amped up ticket sales thanks to a lively skeleton-in-the-theater process called “Emergo.” Screenwriter Dick Beebe and director William Malone, both vets of HBO’s retro-cool “Tales From the Crypt” series, work hard to make their update a loving tribute to both men. That tribute comes mainly in the form of Steven Price, the new movie’s main character who comes off as a mix between Castle, Price, and Price’s “Haunted Hill” character. (Adding to this odd mix, Geoffrey Rush, who plays Price, says he modeled his character after none other than filmmaker John Waters.) The Price character is part master showman, part gentleman, part conniver. He’s a guy that’s out to trick you and is having a blast doing it.

His character is best defined by his opening scene, where we see him at one of his amusement parks, giving a guided tour of his latest rollercoaster. He revels in seeing the reactions of his guests (cameos by Lisa Loeb and James Marsters) as the ride... well, that would be giving away the first of the movie’s many “gotchas.” So I’ll just say this: watch for Rush’s delicious delivery during his explanation of what makes the ride unique. (“Ever seen one that starts at the top? Twenty stories worth of top?”) That initial scene is an analogy of sorts for the movie itself. You’re about to take a wild ride, the filmmakers are telling us. It will be scary, and fun, and you may very well piss your pants and lose your glasses, but dammit, you’ll have a ball all the while.

On to the main story, which only very (very, very) loosely follows the original film. Price’s wife Evelyn (Famke Janssen) is throwing another of her spooky theme parties, and she’s rented out an old insane asylum as the venue. Legend has it the place is haunted with the ghosts of the creepy doctor and his unfortunate patients who all died during a riot years ago. Price, ever the showman, adds another kick: survive the night, and walk away with a certified check for one million dollars.

But there’s another catch. Neither Price nor his wife recognize the guests. Or if they do, they’re not owning up. And that’s where the movie starts to play its games. Toying with a knowledge of the original film (although you don’t have to have seen that one to enjoy this one), the script takes its sweet time in telling us if the house is really haunted, or if all the creepiness is all the doings of Price, who’s famous for his elaborate party pranks. Or maybe it’s Evelyn, pulling some pranks on her own?

I’m not telling. One of the joys of this remake is that it plays with the fans of the original, applauding you for getting the in-jokes and knowing how the plot will turn out, and then spanking you for daring to think you know how the plot will turn out.

I’ve heard from several folks who found the ending a bit disappointing, not living up to the promise of all those gotchas. I admit that the finale causes the movie to stumble a bit, and I was a bit put off when I first saw it, but over time, I’ve gotten to like the ending. It’s how this particular movie should have ended (and I’ll leave it at that).

Even if you find the ending a total bust, there’s still enough here to make up for it. The cast, which also includes Ali Larter, Taye Diggs, Chris Kattan, Bridgette Wilson, and Peter Gallagher, knows just what they’re doing. Kattan adds laughs without doing his usual over-the-top bit. Larter, Diggs, and Wilson play up the scares. Gallagher goes for both and comes off winningly. (It’s perhaps my favorite performance of his.)

But the grand prize goes to Rush. You might think the Oscar winner to be slumming, showing up in a horror flick like this. But watch him work, and you’ll see a guy who, just like his character, is enjoying every minute of it. He’s cartoony without being annoyingly so, chewing up the scenery without eating too much, so to speak. Here’s a guy who gets what the movie was hoping to do, and by adding in his own talents, he improves on a nifty idea. Without Rush, this remake would’ve been a decent attempt. With him, it becomes a dynamite chiller thriller spook show, screams and giggles all the way.

It’s this wink-while-we-scare-you attitude that makes the whole movie crackle. Malone creates some of the creepiest imagery and unsettling moods to come around in some time (that mad doctor ghost dude still gives me the willies). The film deftly combines devilish humor with frights of all varieties: the startling, jump-out-of-your-seat kind of scare, the unsettling-images-that-get-under-your-skin kind of scare, the uneasy-mood-creates-nervous-tension kind of scare. And yet, even with all of this never letting up, he’s careful to keep a sense of fun throughout. Yes, this movie scared the crap out of me (something very few movies do), but a steady influx of humor kept everything at the right balance.

I’ve seen “Haunted Hill” countless times now, and I’ve had fun every time. The laughs are funny, the scares are creepy, and the balance between the two is spot on. It’s a great movie experience for anyone who likes horror films, a wonderful ride that leaves me breathless with each viewing. William Castle would be proud.

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originally posted: 02/18/05 07:09:03
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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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