Forgotten Gem: House on Haunted Hill

Nerdling Tales takes a mostly spoiler free look at cult classics mostly overlooked by the public, movies that failed so hard they won, and the “what in the hell were they thinking” flicks. Join her as she reminisces about what makes these movies so interesting and full of hopeful sequel potential, and yet the general movie going population tends to forget their existence. It is October, so you know it will be all about the scares this month!

To get the chills and thrills off to an eye rolling good start, how about we go with House on Haunted Hill 1999 edition!

Released: October 29, 1999
Director: William Malone
Writers: Robb White and Dick Beebe
Stars: Geoffery Rush, Famke Janssen, Ali Larter, Tay Diggs, Peter Gallagher, Chris Kattan, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Max Perlich, Jeffrey Combs

House on Haunted Hill is about a crazy millionaire (Rush), who makes his money with haunted theme parks, rents a sinister former insane asylum for his wife’s (Janssen) birthday party for a game of survive the night. Several strangers (Larter, Diggs, Gallagher, Wilson-Sampras) are invited and RSVP with the hopes of winning a $1,000,000 for playing. But is the house really haunted by the mysterious doctor (Combs) who performed cruel experiments on his patients or is it a really messed up game of cat and mouse? (The house is really haunted, by the way)

It is an unnecessary remake (as all remakes tend to be) of a Vincent Price classic, but is does offer some creeptacular like scares. In the beginning there is a bit of misdirection of is it the house doing some of these things, or is it Mr. Price’s attempt to scare everyone (and maybe off his wife). But very quickly things go bananas and we know it is the house doing all the crazy stuff. The movie definitely left me unnerved after watching even now.

It does pay tribute to the original House on Haunted Hill in a couple of ways. Rush and Janssens’s characters surnames are Price and the main owner of the house is still named Watson Pritchett (Kattan) and is a descendent of the man who built the asylum. But for the most part everything else is a very loose version of the original.

The House On Haunted Hill

One of my favorite things about the movie is Rush. His character was originally written to be a normal, smarmy business man, but Rush didn’t like the generic look of him. He decided that he was going to mirror his character after famous director John Waters. His look and mannerisms unintentionally ended up being a mix of both Price and Waters and it plays beautifully. The constant bickering, one upping, and accusations of murder between to Price’s were played beautifully by Jensen and Rush. It was hot and hostile.

Overall, it is a paint by the numbers horror movie. You know pretty quickly who is going to survive the house. Hell, you could probably pick in order each character is going to die in, but some of the kills can be a bit of a surprise. The movie is full of PG-13 like scares (which is dumb considering the R-Rating), but the director manages to use camera angles, shutter speeds, and the chill-inducing jerky movements of the supernatural killers. The jerky movements was not a huge staple at that time (now it is a bit cliché) and if gave the movie a creepy vibe that was hard for me to shake off long after watching the film. The after the credits scene left me really weirded out afterwards. He also makes good use of the maze like basement where most of the movie’s action takes place.

House on Haunted Hill has nothing particularly new to offer, but it is fun movie to watch with a group of friends on a cold, dark, Halloween night.

What do you think of the House on Haunted Hill remake? Let me know in the comments section. Hope you survive the house till dawn and make sure to have plenty of cocktails in the parlor for your guests.

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About Nerdling

The Nerdling has an unhealthy obsession with books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. She finds hockey to be the best sport in the world (Go Dallas Stars!) and is working on her first novel, but mostly glowers at a blank screen. You can find her on Twitter @nerdlingstale on Facebook @NerdlingTales or Instagram @nerdling_tales

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