Five strangers agree to spend a night in a haunted
asylum in exchange for a million dollars each.
House on Haunted Hill (1999)
Directed by William Malone
Written by Dick Beebe
Starring Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Ali Larter,
Taye Diggs, Chris Kattan, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras,
Peter Gallagher, Jeffrey Combs
Remake of 1959's House on Haunted Hill
House on Haunted Hill is by no means a masterpiece, but it's a serviceable ghost flick with some truly creepy moments. Its 90's cast and Marilyn Manson helmed soundtrack help keep it securely trapped in 1999, and it goes off the rails in the third act. However, the inherent charm of Geoffrey Rush and the inventive ghosts make this remake a far cry better than it had any business being. That being said, I have not yet seen the original Vincent Price classic, so I can't compare the two.
Rush plays eccentric billionaire Steven Price (a little on the nose, but a nice tip of the hat), a theme park mogul who loves to scare people. In a scheme to screw with his vindictive wife, he brings five strangers to her birthday party in a haunted asylum and promises them a million dollars if they can last a night in the ghost-filled asylum. Price tries to sabotage the place with fake blood and timed traps, but the real ghosts who haunt the asylum get there first and chaos ensues. As far as plots go, it's pretty generic. The cast, apart from Rush, is forgettable as well, particularly an out of place Chris Kattan. What makes this film memorable is the creepy stop-motion ghosts that show up in the second act. Horror icon Jeffrey Combs plays the ghostly doctor, and I really wish we'd seen more of him throughout.
The third act ruins the movie by ditching the creepy ghosts in exchange for a cloud of nonspecific darkness that has no personality. It exists purely as a plot device and ends the movie abruptly with no resolution. It's irritating and caps off an otherwise enjoyable horror romp with a bad ending, leaving a poor taste in my mouth. As far as horror remakes go, House on Haunted Hill isn't bad. It just could've been a whole lot better if they'd used all the pieces correctly.