House on Haunted Hill

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

After last year's unfortunate The Haunting, with Liam Neeson, comes another remake of William Castle's 1958 black-and-white shocker. This time more imagination in the spook department, an energetic frightshow from Geoffrey Rush, gutsy backup in the delectable form of Ali Larter and snappy one-liners from screenscribe Dick Beebe makes a change from boys in masks stabbing girls in showers.

The setting is familiar, the situ same-old. Thirties loony bin, built into the cliffs of Monteray, is haunted by the victims of an evil doctor who used inmates for Nazi-style experiments. Nineties amusement park millionaire (Rush) reopens the place as a venue for his wife's birthday party. Only four guests turn up, the wrong ones - don't ask why - who are offered drinks (gulp) and $1 million if they survive the night (double gulp).

What should follow, according to The Horror Flick Handbook, is the elimination of cast members, one by one, preferably in ways that redefine the phrase "Mummy, I'm feeling sick." This happens, of course, not always with decorative displays of internal organs, but off screen (occasionally), leaving the stain of death behind. What enhances the fear factor is knowledge that "this house is alive", meaning with dead people. A

lso, there are plot twists, adding an element of surprise. Apparitions are influenced by Goya and Francis Bacon - eyeless faces that scream, mouthless heads that want to. The spirit of evil appears in a shapechanging mist that sucks men to Hell. As a tribute to the memory of Vincent Price, who starred in the original, this is an interesting example of technically inventive pastiche.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A millionaire offers $1 million to anyone who can spend the night in a haunted asylum.
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Symon Parsons *1/2

Director: William Malone

Writer: Dick Beebe, based on the story by Robb White.

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher, Chris Kattan, Ali Larter, Bridgette Wilson, Max Perlich, Jeffrey Combs, Dick Beebe, Slavitza Jovan

Year: 1999

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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