Wednesday, September 28, 2016

House on Haunted Hill (1999)


Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Ali Larter, Taye Diggs, Famke Janssen, Peter Gallagher, Brigette Wilson-Sampras, Chris Kattan

Rated R for Horror Violence and Gore, Sexual Images and Language

I saw this movie in high school (all those years ago) and remember thinking that it was extremely lame.  Now that I'm older, wiser, and have a more refined and personal taste for movies...I still think it sucks.  It's not scary, it's not funny (not even as camp), it's not good.

Evelyn (Janssen) is the pampered wife of schlock mogul Stephen Price (Rush).  Although his reputation as being a cross between Roger Corman and P.T. Barnum nets him a lot of money, she's far from happy (the feeling is mutual).  Nevertheless, after seeing a "Twilight Zone"-ish TV episode about a haunted asylum, she convinces Stephen to throw her a birthday party there.  The guests, much to her displeasure, are not whom she invited.  Nevertheless, the game that Stephen has concocted (stay alive until morning and win a cool $1 million), must go on.  Little do they know that they aren't just going to see a show.  They really are going to have to try to survive.

The characters in this movie range from boring to irritating, with little room in-between.  There is a certain amount of campy fun watching a slumming Geoffrey Rush trade barbs with Famke Janssen (who has never looked so bored), but it would have been funnier had they been better things to say.  Taye Diggs and Peter Gallagher are essentially invisible; no one could be blamed for forgetting they're in the movie.  And Briget Wilson-Sampras and Chris Kattan are incredibly annoying (as if the film weren't painful enough, it's the lesser of two evils that dies first).

On a visual side, the movie has all the materials to make a great movie.  The film looks great (director William Malone later went on to direct "FeardotCom," a better horror movie than this one), and the asylum is perfectly creepy.  The special effects are usually pretty cool (with one exception) and there's a decent amount of atmosphere.  What the film doesn't have is a script worth the paper it was printed on and a director who doesn't know the meaning of the words "patience" or "subtlety."  It's all noise, chaos and blood.  Compare that to "The Conjuring 2."  This summer's horror hit scored a home run because director James Wan knows that special effects can only be used to supplement a story, and that often times silence is scary enough on its own.  More importantly, he knows that what you don't see is always scarier than what you do.

There's really not a lot to recommend this movie.  It's headache inducing, repetitive and dumb.  There are far better choices when you want to watch a movie that will scare the living hell out of you.  Trust me.

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