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House on Haunted Hill

Story by Robb White  Screenplay by Dick Beebe  Directed by William Malone

   While the story for the 1999 version is almost entirely duplicated from the 1959 version, they were sure to add before and after plots connecting the persons chosen to spend the night. To give the house a bit more history. But before I get too ahead of myself, let me back up for a bit. The House on Haunted Hill story is as follows: A wealthy man throws a party for his “amusing” wife in which a group of people are invited to spend the night. Promising a generous amount if able to stay in the house the entirety of the night without leaving…or before being murdered in the ultimate haunted house. The addition to the updated version being that the house was an asylum back in the day where the doctors would perform operations on the patients and use them for their “experimental” research. Of which the patients were able to gain control and turn the tables on the Doctor’s one evening leaving 5 survivors. Being all too coincidental that five guests get invited to the house for the “celebration,” I will spoil that the five are related to the survivors.

Playing Stephen H. Price was Geoffrey Rush with his wife Evelyn played by Famke Janssen. The story with these lovebirds being that Price owed several amusement parks of which Evelyn would be more thrilled about. If only her husband would just drop dead and leave everything to her. Sending out the invitations for the guest list we see early on that the energy from the house intervenes by deleting the current list and creating its own for the intended full night of festivities. The relationship between the two having its moments of humor however is certainly not equivalent to its predecessor’s duo. Janssen is a striking vision radiating a deviously alluring aura being a proper fit for thrillers. The only issue with her performance, if I can even say that’s the case, was that her character turned out to be just as sadistic as the previous owners. And while she does get what’s coming; it didn’t feel like she should have taken that particular turn in her role. Rush as Stephen Price, the name being a clear nod to Vincent Price, is certainly no stranger to entertaining audiences with his wit. Director Malone had stated that while getting Rush into “costume,” he just so happened to resemble Price though the original intent was modeled after John Waters.

I cannot be the only one who states that nowhere did I see Price, anywhere in Rush’s version. If you’re not sure who John Waters is; I hear we have a handy thing nowadays called the internet. I just couldn’t see Rush living up to the role because of the fact that I found him so funny. Same thing happened to Chris Kattan who played Watson Pritchett (the only returning character from the original). As well, I could care less for those who may think that Kattan is not witty or whichever term you’d prefer to use. He actually plays the role of Pritchett serious but is so naturally funny that the role was hard to be seen as the former. Either way he was enjoyable in the role.

Playing the role of Sara was Ali Larter whose character was mirrored after Nora in the original. Again for those who are not aware, Nora played the surefire hysterical one that was brought in specifically to raise panic within the rest of the group. Which she does, so I wasn’t exactly sure why others seemed to think Larter was a bad component in the film. She’s not a bad actress; she just hasn’t always gotten the right roles. Taye Diggs played Eddie who was mocked after Lance in the original. The interest that Diggs and Larter’s character had for each other was also carried from the original, Diggs being yet another funny addition the film, not really giving or taking from it. There was a deleted scene that the two were in that got taken out at the last-minute which I thought should have just been kept in. It did involve zombies which could have been confusing for some, but I’m not necessarily sure that would have mattered.

Which leaves us with Peter Gallagher, a.k.a. Mr. Blackburn and Bridgette Wilson-Sampras who played Melissa Marr. Wilson’s character was an ex celebrity trying to get her career back in gear by capturing something worthy enough, although I would say she got a bit more than bargained for. Wilson’s great though, gorgeous, plenty of other better roles that’s she been in prior. She doesn’t get a whole lot of play so can’t say all that much about her. Gallagher turns out to be Evelyn’s lover scheming to try and murder Price so as to get a share in his wealth, dying by the hands of is greedy lover. Which goes to show that you should never trust a woman who refuses to see anything other than a dollar sign. And whoa! am I to believe that Evelyn’s character actually cut the man’s head off, nailed it to the door and pulled all that off on her own? I didn’t prefer that addition either, but that’s me.

The “ghosts” do finally emerge at the ending sequences of the film but are more comparable to a Rorschach test than something meant to terrify. The images were actually shots of naked woman dancing which they then took and fast forwarded the images. If you pause or pay enough attention you can tell. The direction with the remake being to scare modern audiences, which I guess entails lots of loud noises and grotesque images. It’s worth a watch if you’re curious enough; I do have a bone to pick with the ending. Having mentioned that the “energy” from the house was kind enough to change the guest list you would also think they would do their research to notate that 3 of the 5 people are not even relatives of people prior. Which upset me because that was the main difference in the story line and it fell through. Also notating that there was a circumstance here and there that didn’t get taken into account until the very ending? Then when the two people left do survive, the house was nice enough to place the checks right underneath the window they escaped out of. Aww, such a bitter-sweet house you turned out to be. It then pans out as the survivors laugh, showing where they ended up; some 50 stories up or something ridicules as such having me yell at the screen, “What good is the money if you’ll die on the way down?!”