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House on Haunted Hill

Review by: 
Release Date: 
Warner Bros.
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
William Malone
Geoffrey Rush
Famke Janssen
Ali Larter
Taye Diggs
Chris Kattan
Bottom Line: 

 Remember the good old days? When you were a young kid, and it was just good fun to watch horror movies? Well don't fear, you can recapture that feeling again, just by watching this movie!
For the key word here is most definitely "fun". Zemeckis formed a company called Dark Castle Entertainment, with the sole aim of remaking William Castle's horror films. This film was the first of these, 13 Ghosts was the second, and I'm hoping that more are to follow.
From the first moment where the black and white Warner Brothers logo appears followed by the cool credit sequence, you soon realise this concept. Nothing too challenging, just a fun ride of a horror movie. Plot is loosely based upon the original, so don't expect too faithful an adaption. And whatever you do, don't take it too seriously!
Four actors stand out. Geoffery Rush plays the Vincent Price role with much relish. Scarily, he looks like the living embodiment of Price, which seems even stranger when you hear the director William Malone mentioning that it wasn't intentional. Apparently Rush was supposed to look like John Waters!
Famke Janssen plays the femme fatale, and proves to me once more, that she must have a genuine affection for the horror genre. I can't fault her performance. She has never looked so good, nor acted so evil! Cult actor Jeffrey Combs plays the "mad doctor" role. No surprises there!
The actor who steals the show is Chris Kattan, with his amusing performance as the neurotic, yet likeable Mr. Pritchett. The remainder of the cast is purely functional.
Classic horror set-up is used. Several characters trapped in a haunted house (well, asylum actually) for the night. The stuff that horrors were once made of!
The film features some genuinely creepy moments and images but it chooses to lighten the atmosphere with humour, which creates an interesting mix. If the creators had wanted to, they could have made a really scary movie, but that was clearly not their intention here. The film has been designed for the "teen" market, although I believe that this particular movie has more to offer than the usual Scream or I Know What You Did... sequels.
Make fun all you want, but I enjoy it, and I'm not ashamed to say so either! My only criticism would be the exclusion of the "Zombies" deleted scene. It's a pretty cool scene and it plays well, so why take it away? Malone tells us that it was removed for running time reasons. That's a shame. It's a good scene and the movie would have benefited from its inclusion. I still don't understand why it wasn't re-introduced to the non-theatrical version.
Other than that, I can't fault this picture and when you compare it to Malone's debut feature, "Creature" (a tailor-made trailer is included for our amusement), it's even more impressive!
I also like the way that the film was designed to be a one-off. I'm glad that there (presumably!) won't be a Return To The House On Haunted Hill! Sometimes, I get a bit fed up with inevitable horror sequels.
As to be expected from such a recent film, the DVD's picture quality is very good, but the real surprise is the 5:1 audio track. It's my favourite non-DTS track ever! If you close your eyes, you could be there! All speakers are utilised well, creating a pleasing soundscape around you. Creaks, hums and other ambient creepy noises surround you in a most impressive manner. Great stuff, almost worth buying for that alone!
Anyway, here's your DVD lowdown:
Widescreen (damn straight!)
5:1 score
Animated menus
20 min featurette comparing the original film and remake
Trailers for both the original and remake
6 "behind-the-screams" featurettes (around 12 minutes)
Creature trailer
Director's commentary
Deleted scenes with commentary
William Castle biography
There's also a strange extra called "Chamber" which makes you feel very dizzy! Watch it and see what I mean! The disc also features a game, two essays and a website link for PC owners. Pretty generous extras, eh?
Fair play to Warner Brothers. A fun package for a fun movie. Certainly not a "classic" but I'm still very pleased to own it in my collection.
Now if only WB could use standard keep-cases, instead of those naff cardboard covers!

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