Dark Castle’s 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill boasted the same sort of goofy charm of William Castle’s 1959 original, but bloodied it up enough to frighten modern audiences. Still, Joel Silver’s new imprint achieved their goal of bringing back the sort of ‘50’s and 60’s B-movie hokum that he and his cohorts were weaned on.
House on Haunted Hill proved to be a moderate success, but, at the time, Dark Castle was more interested in remaking other Castle flicks (Th13teen Ghosts) and original productions than sequels. Now, nearly ten years later, the house with the insane asylum in the basement has been revisited in Return to House on Haunted Hill, a direct-to-DVD sequel that doubles up on everything except the fun.
Ariel Wolfe (Amanda Righetti) is devastated by the suicide of her sister, Sara – one of the two survivors of Stephen Price’s “party” of seven years prior. Ariel and her boyfriend Kyle (Andrew Lee Potts) search Sara’s apartment looking for clues as to why she killed herself, and run into Richard (Samuel Pacey); an occult expert who had been corresponding with Sara and theorizes that the haunted asylum is home to a cursed relic worth millions to the right buyer. He hopes to enlist Ariel’s help in seeking out this statue of Baphomet, but she refuses, and she and Richard part ways.
Soon after, Desmond – another treasure hunter (and former student of Richard’s) – kidnaps Ariel and Kyle, and forces them to accompany his “team” of mercenary types into the house to retrieve the treasure. As expected, once inside the house, the spirits of Dr. Richard Benjamin Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs) and his victims are awakened, and all hell breaks loose…again.
With better-than-average production values for a direct-to-DVD release, Return to House on Haunted Hill looks very polished, but lacks the giddy sense of humor (and star power) of its predecessor, and, while at first interesting, the “occult” angle of the plot quickly gives way to the typical separated-in-a-haunted-house pick ‘em off we’ve seen so many times before. What the film does offer, though, are plentiful, extremely gory death scenes, abundant nudity, and, of course, the venerable Jeffrey Combs reprising his role as the mad doctor; all reasons to at least give this one a rent.
The DVD from Warner Bros. sports a “character confessionals gallery”; “The Search for an Idol: Dr. Richard Hammer's Quest”; deleted scenes; music video, and more.