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Movie Reviews

House On Haunted Hill  

Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush)
Evelyn Price (Famke Janssen)
Eddie (Taye Diggs)
Sara Wolfe (Ali Larter)
Dr. Blackburn (Peter Gallagher)
Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan)

Directed by William Malone Written by Dick Beebe
Rated R for violence, gore, sexual images and language
Running Time: 124 minutes Distributed by Warner Bros.

House on Haunted Hill is a bad horror film that is poorly written. Terrible and unthinkable things happened to patients at the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the criminally insane. The head of the institution, Dr. Vannacutt, performed human torture and demonic acts on his patients. Now, decades after the institution was shuttered, six strangers are invited to spend the night there. The pitch is if they can survive the night, each will receive a check for one million dollars. All they have to do is stay alive and become fearless of the institution's past experiences and ghosts.

House on Haunted Hill is a typical dumb horror film. Every moment is predictable and 75 % of the movie becomes unexplained.

Dick Beebe wrote House on Haunted Hill. Beebe opens the script with a very eerie view of the dark institution. Afterwards, the film falls and just keeps falling. The only character developed is Steve Price, who is an amusement park creator that enjoys scaring people. Price isn't even one of the strangers, he is the host and the man behind forming the proposal to the strangers. The script is also predictable with the concepts of characters suddenly riving themselves, after the audience believes that they are dead. The film is based off the old horror classic version that starred Vincent Price. Beebe tries to write an updated version of the story, but his attempt becomes fragile and eventually dies.

The acting in House on Haunted Hill is dreadful. I don't know why Geoffrey Rush would be involved in a film like this. He is too talented; my only answer is that he got a hefty paycheck to take on the role of Steven Price. Rush isn't that bad in this movie, but his performance is not even near his usual standards. I have said many times that Taye Diggs is an established actor that will just get better and better. Unfortunately Diggs delivers a dull performance as Eddie, who is the hero of the group of strangers. In addition to, the rest of the cast isn't at all effective or efficient.

One last element I would like to touch on is the special effects that were used in the film. William Malone directed House on Haunted on Hill and chose to use special effects to show the evil of the institution. Even though the effects don't arise until the film's climax, the choice to use them was ineffective. Special effects are not scary, and I don't know why Hollywood filmmakers keep getting excited to use them in horror films. In my opinion, to make a successful horror film, one has to approach the story with what I call the old school method. Using common things like sound, actor's facial expressions, and mysterious cinematography, will make a film scarier than by using special effects. A nice example of the old school method is this year's The Blair Witch Project. The Blair Witch Project contains no gore, no monsters, no special effects, and the film is just frightening. I just wished that horror films would turn away from thriving on special effects.

I didn't like House on Haunted Hill and I do not recommend seeing it. This film might get compared to The Haunting, which is a movie from last summer that follows some of the same concepts as House on Haunted Hill. However, The Haunting is the better of the two films.

Report Card Grade: D

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