Main cast: Geoffrey Rush (Steven Price), Famke Janssen (Evelyn Price), Taye Diggs (Eddie), Bridgette Wilson (Melissa), Ali Larter (Sara), Chris Kattan (Watson), and Peter Gallagher (Dr Blackburn)
Director: William Malone
The original 1953 version by Vincent Price is cheesy, hokey, and hilarious. The 1999 remake is cheesy, hokey, hilarious, and big-budgeted. They should have just added color to the 1953 one. While the 1999 version manages to convey some distinctly chilling scenes of torture, dismemberment, and gore, it runs out of steam fast enough. By the ending, whatever subtlety and build-up necessary for a horror story to work has somehow given way into One Bad Mutha of a Chase.
Steven Price is a wealthy man whose specialty is building terrifying roller coasters and other thrill rides. His wife Evelyn and he detests each other yet somehow cannot untangle themselves from the chains of matrimony. Evelyn wants a birthday party at a large, creepy manor that was once a lunatic asylum. Back then, a mad group of scientists performed hideous experiments on the inmates. When the inmates rebel, they ultimately burned the whole place down (not before showing me some nice scenes of gruesome cutting open of bodies). Only five survived, and someone – something – manages to hack into Steven’s guest list to invite the descendants of the five survivors to the party.
So we have five unwitting guests lured by Steven’s offer of $1,000,000 per head for anyone who could survive a night in the House on Haunted Hill. Steven plans to have some artificial scares and thrills, but when the ghosts take over, it’s one bloody party where people get dragged into walls, skewered, or hallucinate nasty things. I must admit some scenes have me cutting off the circulation in hubby’s hand.
I even enjoy the fact that the Prices don’t talk normal – Steven is all melodrama theatrics in his speech, speaking as if he’s addressing an audience in a magic show instead of a small bunch of people terrified out of their wits; Evelyn snarls, acts bitchy and nasty, while making sure her make-up is all in order. All in spirit of the cheesiness of the original, I thought.
But somehow, the ending is just pure baloney. The ghosts show great imagination when they are torturing the first few guinea pigs – there are some creative usage of torture devices. By the end, however, the ghosts seem to have run out of ideas and have to resort to turning into some bad Alien-lookalike on an awful hair day and go around chasing the few survivors. Oh, don’t forget the explosions. It’s as if the production crew is taken over by a few ghosts themselves, probably ghosts of Terminator fans, and changes House on Haunted Hill into Terminator 3: Ah’ll Be Back and Ahm Back!.
Spoils the whole show, I tell you.