A Video Review of “House on Haunted Hill” (1999)
Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker
William Castle, the director of the original House on Haunted Hill was a marketing if not film genius. All of his movies were gimmicked. From special ghost glasses to insurance papers to nurses in the lobby to the granddaddy of them all – wiring seats for electric shock for The Tingler, he was the man. Sadly this remake of one of his lesser classics would have fared better with a gimmick or two.
It has a simple plot, very hard to wreck even in the context of a remake. Guests are invited to a haunted house and offered money if they can survive the night. The house then of course proceeds to wipe them all out in nasty but rating-sensitive ways.
The casting is interesting. Geoffrey Rush, Peter Gallagher, Famke Jansen and Taye Diggs all play one note characters which is especially bad for Rush who is capable of so much more. The casting of “Saturday Night Live” veteran Chris Kattan was very disturbing for me. Besides the point that I have never found any of his antics funny it was hard to take him seriously here when I could not erase images of his SNL ‘monkey boy’ act from my mind. And it’s nice to see Lisa Loeb doing anything at all.
There are numerous nods in this flick to other William Castle masterpieces probably due to the fact his daughter co-produced the new version. Unlike that other haunted house remake The Haunting out the same year which turned out to more art film than horror film House on Haunted Hill is much more accessible, geared to a younger crowd and even has a sense of humor along with its original horror intent.
The new House on Haunted Hill isn’t the original classic and it’s not the best at what it does but it is definitely worth a look.
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