House on Haunted Hill (1999)

House on Haunted Hill is a remake of the 1959 film of the same title and was made famous partly because of the gimmick “Emergo” (which was the emerging of a skeleton placed by the screen which then swooped over the audiences’ heads) that was used in theaters during this film. The original was a huge success back in the 1950’s, even inspiring Alfred Hitchcock to make Psycho, however, the story didn’t survive the test of time and ended up failing the second time around in 1999.  Although it had potential to be a scary film, the special effects and script made it only mildly creepy which isn’t acceptable in this genre.

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House on Haunted Hill is a story about six seemingly random strangers who are offered $1,000,000 to spend the night in a haunted house and leave the next morning alive. As it turns out the haunted house is actually a former mental institution where a doctor practiced not-so-nice and unethical treatments on the patients at his will.  The inmates of the hospital are now the ghosts who are exacting revenge on the ancestors of the doctors and nurses who attended to them.  When the strangers are approached to spend the night they eagerly accept the invitation because they believe the whole thing is a joke.  As the house seals itself up and strange things start to occur, the guests soon realize that surviving the night won’t be as easy as they thought.

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This movie actually has a pretty decent cast for a horror movie. With Chris Kattan, Taye Diggs, Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Bridgette Wilson and Ali Larter—the movie should have done better based on the cast but even these actors couldn’t make it a success.  The dialogue isn’t great but there are a few good one-liners and the actors did a good job with what they had to work with.  This is one of Kattan’s better films and his delivery of several lines made the movie more fun.

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The special effects are a bit cheesy and the director relied too heavily on them, especially when it comes to the Big Bad at the end of the film, but this adds to the overall campy-ness, so it completely worked and made it more enjoyable to watch.  He also relied on the fact that crazy doctors are scary and unnerving, especially when they walk around holding scalpels and shake uncontrollably.  If one is scared and uneasy about hospitals and surgical procedures then this film might hit a nerve because that is by far the creepiest part of the film.  But even that is over-exaggerated and laughable which is more amusing instead of frightening.

This film is fun because and even though it’s categorized as a horror film, it’s not scary in the least. That’s exactly my kind of horror because it makes me feel braver than I really am.  It’s not a great movie by any means but if you want to be mildly creeped out and entertained then it’s worth viewing.  It’s a fun, light-hearted movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  And be sure to watch it past the credits because there’s a little something extra.


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