House on Haunted Hill (1999)
In 1999, movie producers Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis started up Dark Castle Entertainment, a production company (initially) intended to remake the ’50s and ’60s horror films of William Castle. Their first Castle remake was House on Haunted Hill. It didn’t fare too well at the box office, at least in comparison to Jan de Bont’s The Haunting, 1999’s other haunted house flick, which beat it to theaters and subsequently left a rancid taste in people’s mouths. House on Haunted Hill, however, is the superior movie. It’s trash, for sure, but entertaining trash. Geoffrey Rush hams it up, channeling Vincent Price by way of James Woods, and he practically makes the movie. The rest of the cast is filled out by a young Taye Diggs and a pre-X-Men Famke Janssen, with Peter Gallagher and Ali Larter in the mix as well. Perhaps most randomly, SNL‘s Chris Kattan shows up as the neurotic young owner who inherited the “house”, and perhaps most amazingly, he’s not entirely annoying. The most pleasant surprise about this movie is that it actually manages to be pretty creepy on occasion. The best parts (aside from practically any scene with Rush) involve the ghosts of the sanitarium’s lunatic doctor and his staff fucking up people’s party plans, and some of the eerie visual effects take a cue from Jacob’s Ladder. However like so many other horror titles that build up a considerable amount of the viewer’s good will, it all turns to shit in the end, collapsing in spectacular fashion as the “evil” manifests itself as a giant CGI shit-cloud that looks created by fucking MS Paint. It’s not quite enough to ruin the good time that came before it, but it’s close. 3/5
- Take a drink every time Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen hurl sarcastic insults at each other.