House on Haunted Hill – USA, 1999 – reviews

‘Dare you to win!!’

House on Haunted Hill is a 1999 American horror feature film, directed by William Malone from a screenplay by Dick Beebe. The movie stars Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter and Jeffrey Combs. Produced by Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver, it is a remake of the 1959 film of the same name directed by William Castle.

House on Haunted Hill marked the debut of Dark Castle Entertainment, a production company that went on to produce Thirteen Ghosts and House of Wax, which were also remakes. The film was followed by a sequel, Return to House on Haunted Hill.

On October 9, 2018, Scream Factory is issuing the movie as a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray. Extras and specs are still in progress and will be announced in September. The disc will include a new high-definition transfer of the film and a new interview with director William Malone. Extras from the previous DVD release will be ported over and more new interviews are underway.

The newly-commissioned artwork has been created by Joel Robinson (Silent Night Deadly Night; The Serpent and the Rainbow, etc). The reverse side of the wrap will the original theatrical poster design.

Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com

Special Features:

  • New 2K scan from the original film elements
  • New interview with director William Malone
  • New interview with composer Don Davis
  • New Interview with visual effects supervisor Robert Skotak
  • Never-Before-Seen storyboards, concept art and behind-the-scenes photos courtesy of visual effects producer Paul Taglianetti
  • Audio Commentary with director William Malone
  • A Tale of Two Houses – vintage featurette
  • Behind the Visual FX – vintage featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Movie Stills and Poster Gallery
  • 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English Subtitles

In an abandoned asylum, the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane. The head of the facility, Dr. Richard B. Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs), performed grotesque experiments and medical procedures on the patients, killing many in the process. The hospital was closed in 1931 after the patients escaped from their cells, killing almost the entire staff (all except five) and burning the hospital. All the patients died, their souls rumored to be trapped there forever.

Vannacutt had rigged the building with numerous iron gates, activated by cranks and levers, to serve as barriers to keep patients from leaving the building, should they escape; some of these were controlled by huge, clock-like timers that wouldn’t open for twelve hours. During the fire, he released these gates, keeping the inmates, employees and the fire itself contained. After several unexplained deaths during reconstruction of the facility, it was dubbed “The House on Haunted Hill”.

Evelyn Stockard-Price (Famke Janssen), a spoiled trophy wife, is in a disintegrating marriage with Stephen Price (Geoffrey Rush), an amusement park mogul with a wicked sense of humour, each of whom would gladly kill the other. Evelyn fancies spectacular parties.

Stephen leases the house from the owner, Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan), for Evelyn’s Halloween birthday bash. Evelyn gives Stephen a guest list two pages long; he shreds it to spite her and then creates one of his own.

The five people who show up for the party – Jennifer Jenzen (aka Sara Wolfe) (Ali Larter), Eddie Baker (Taye Diggs), Melissa Margaret Marr (Bridgette Wilson), Dr. Donald Blackburn (Peter Gallagher), and Pritchett himself – aren’t the ones he invited. Neither Evelyn nor Stephen know who they are.

Despite this, Price continues the party’s theme, offering $1 million to each one who stays in the house and survives until morning, with any person not making it having his money added to the pot…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The first half of the film, devoted to introducing the characters, the house and the suspense, is done well and makes the film seem interesting and leading to a satisfying conclusion, which unfortunately, is not to be. The second half has to live up to the scares it promises, but it doesn’t eventuate. The gore is minimal, and blood is scarcely here or there.” Digital Retribution

“It reminds us that certain films can use a remake if done correctly. It doesn’t aim to delve into our deepest fears or cause us lasting paranoia. Instead, its vibe is that of a really good funhouse. With some clever gore make-up, a hot cast of leading ladies, a chilling location and backstory, and an atmosphere of fun horror shocks, who wouldn’t enjoy this movie?” Oh, the Horror!

Cast and characters:

  • Geoffrey Rush as Steven H. Price
  • Famke Janssen as Evelyn Stockard-Price
  • Ali Larter as Sara Wolfe
  • Bridgette Wilson-Sampras as Melissa Margaret Marr
  • Taye Diggs as Eddie Baker
  • Peter Gallagher as Donald W. Blackburn, M.D.
  • Chris Kattan as Watson Pritchett
  • Max Perlich as Carl Schecter
  • Jeffrey Combs as Doctor Richard Benjamin Vannacutt
  • Lisa Loeb as Channel 3 reporter
  • James Marsters as Channel 3 cameraman
  • Janet Tracy Keijser as Girl on wires
  • Peter Graves as Himself

Filming locations:

The film was shot in late 1998 and early 1999 in Los Angeles, California, with exteriors of the house’s driveway being shot in Griffith Park near the Griffith Park Observatory. The “Terror Incognita” rollercoaster at Price’s amusement park featured in the beginning of the film is actually The Incredible Hulk rollercoaster at Universal Studios Florida.

Box office:

The movie took $40.8 million against a reported budget of $19 million.

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