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HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL

SYNOPSIS:
In this remake of William Castle's classic namesake horror from 1958, billionaire theme-park tycoon Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush, playing Vincent Price's part and looking suspiciously similar) plans a scary birthday party for his scary wife Evelyn (Famke Janssen) at an abandoned psychiatric institute for the criminally insane. Little does he know that the institute was once the site of the most bizarre and horrific medical experiments in history, and that the long dead, horribly mutilated inmates, harbour a grudge toward anyone who dares host a swank party there. As the unsuspecting guests arrive, Price reveals the motive for their invitation; anyone who lives through the night will receive one million dollars each. But as the festivities begin, Price hardly gets the chance to deploy the insidious devices he's rigged to spook the guests into leaving, as the house itself reveals much deadlier secrets of its own.

"The creators of this flaccid remake should have used some of the tricks William Castle did in bringing his horror movies to the screen in the 40s and 50s. Castle had skeletons appear to fly off the screen and over the audience's heads in his screenings of House on Haunted Hill. Before screenings of Macabre, he offered death insurance to anyone who thought their heart may give way, and in The Tingler he ingeniously wired the theatre seats to vibrate during the spooky parts. This version of House could have done with such jolts to wake the audience up. It would be the only shock they get. The standard prosthetic severed heads and assorted gore are glaringly fake, and the digital effects consists of a boring fog-like presence that creeps it way around the house. The guests could walk to out-run it. It appears that heavyweight co-producers Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver - who list Castle's House on Haunted Hill as one of their all-time favourites - have indulged their artistic license and extended their egos in attempting to recapture the magic of the original. The result is merely the corruption of the classic. They employ B-grade director William Malone (who worked for Zemeckis and Silver on Tales from the Crypt), and cast five of the most unimaginably beautiful soap actors as party-guests. Taye Diggs (last seen in Go) plays Eddie, a former major league baseball player, Ali Larter (last seen wearing a whipped-cream bikini in Varsity Blues) plays Sara, a personal assistant passing herself off as her boss, Bridgette Wilson (last seen on Santa Barbara) plays Melissa, a wannabe talk-show-host, and to give the casting a little credibility, Peter Gallagher plays the surreptitious Dr Blackburn. Chris Kattan gives the film a comic angle in his role as the House's goofy landlord. But no-one can rescue this yawnfest no matter how good they look. If you want a really good haunted house movie, try the original, or the chillingly grotesque sci-fi horror, Event Horizon, of late."
Shannon J. Harvey

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (M)
(US)

CAST: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, Bridgette Wilson, Peter Gallagher, Chris Kattan

PRODUCERS: Robert Zemeckis, Joel Silver, Gilbert Adler

DIRECTOR: William Malone

SCRIPT: Dick Beebe

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rick Bota

EDITOR: Film Editor

MUSIC: Don Davis

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Klassen

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 10, 2000







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