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Film Review: The House on Haunted Hill

Say these film titles: 'The Avengers', 'The Wild Wild West'. Pass that test? Yes? Good! Now - and only now - can you say this title: 'The House on Haunted Hill'. Intelligent, fun, shocking, and brilliant = words that do not describe this film. Common Sense + Logic = words that never once entered the minds of the makers of this film.

'The House on Haunted Hill' is a remake of the 1958 film called, well, 'The House on Haunted Hill' and was banned in Finland (a spot of trivia for those interested). It starred Vincent Price and was presented in theatres with "Emergo", a flying skeleton gimmick. I admit that I have not seen the original, but I do know that the remake would need a hell of a lot more than a flying skeleton to scare you.

The plot is wafer thin: Five people are invited to survive through the night in a renovated psychiatric hospital. Back in the 1930s, the hospital burned killing all but five of those inside it. If the five make it to sunrise they share in $5,000,000. This night was originally a party for Mrs Evelyn Price (Famke Janssen), wife of (note the surname) Steven B. Price (Geoffrey Rush). She had a guest list that her husband destroyed and he created his own. But on the computer in his office. His names though are deleted and five replacements are mysteriously typed. Who made them? Answer: who cares?

Price is a designer of roller coaster amusement rides who gets his thrills out of scaring people. Is he behind the scary incidents in the house? Or is it his wife? Or is it the ghosts of the hospital or the lunatic doctor himself? Answer: again, who cares?

So what happens? Guests disappear. Do the other characters stop and think about them? No.
Price discovers his assistant faceless in a chair. Does he tell anyone else? No. The characters find Evelyn Price being electrocuted. They find dismembered heads. Do these incidents change their behavior? No. Do the characters care? Why should they? No one else does.

When the climax comes and the truth reveals itself - in the form of a ghostly CGI (Computer Graphic Imagery) cloud that moves fast enough not to catch up - you have to sit in the seat and wonder. Wonder how to get those ninety-two minutes of your life back.

Peter Gallagher who plays one of the guests must be applauded. He stars in one of the best films of 2000 ('American Beauty') but he also stars in the worst (so far) 'The House on Haunted Hill'.

Apparently at the end of the film there is a small scene with Famke Janssen and Geoffrey Rush, I say 'apparently' because I had left the cinema as soon as the credits rolled, in disgust.

Robert Lanigan

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