House on Haunted Hill (1999 film)

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House on Haunted Hill
The House On Haunted Hill.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by William Malone
Produced by Robert Zemeckis
Joel Silver
Gilbert Adler
Terry Castle
Screenplay by Dick Beebe
Story by Robb White
Starring Geoffrey Rush
Famke Janssen
Taye Diggs
Ali Larter
Bridgette Wilson
Peter Gallagher
Chris Kattan
Music by Don Davis
Cinematography Rick Bota
Edited by Anthony Adler
Production
  company
Dark Castle Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s)
  • October 29, 1999 (1999-10-29)
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $37 million[1]
Box office $40,846,082

House on Haunted Hill is a 1999 American horror film, directed by William Malone and starring Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter and Jeffrey Combs. It also includes a cameo appearance by Peter Graves. Produced by Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver, it is a remake of the 1959 film of the same name directed by William Castle.

House on Haunted Hill marks the producing debut of Dark Castle Entertainment, a production company that went on to produce Thirteen Ghosts and House of Wax, two films which were also remakes. The film was followed by a sequel, Return to House on Haunted Hill, which was released in both rated and unrated editions on DVD in 2007.

Plot[edit]

The film is set in an abandoned asylum. The head of the facility, Dr. Richard B. Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs), had performed grotesque experiments on the patients, killing many in the process. The hospital was closed in 1931 after the patients escaped from their cells, killing the entire staff (except five who were not present) and setting fire to the hospital. Vannacutt had rigged the building with numerous iron gates, activated by cranks and levers that can not be reset for twelve hours, to keep patients from escaping. He closed the gates during the fire, dooming the patients and himself to death. Decades later, during reconstruction of the facility, several unexplained deaths result in the building being dubbed "The House on Haunted Hill".

Advance to the present day, in 1999. Evelyn Stockard-Price (Famke Janssen), a spoiled trophy wife, is in a disintegrating marriage with Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush), an amusement park mogul with a wicked sense of humour.

Price leases the house from the owner, Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan), for Evelyn's birthday party. Evelyn gives Price a lengthy guest list; he shreds it to spite her and then creates one of his own. The five guests arrive for the party - Jennifer Jenzen (aka Sara Wolfe) (Ali Larter), Eddie Baker (Taye Diggs), Melissa Margaret Marr (Bridgette Wilson), Dr. Donald Blackburn (Peter Gallagher), and Pritchett himself. The guests are not the ones Price invited—neither Evelyn nor Price know who they are. Despite this, Price continues the party's theme, offering $1 million to each guest who stays in the house and survives until morning, with any person not making it having his money added to the pot.

The security gates are suddenly tripped, locking everyone inside until the gates unlock in the morning. After finding some hand guns, Sara, Eddie and Pritchett decided to take one of the guns. Meanwhile, Price scolds Carl Schecter (Max Perlich), a company employee - who has developed a series of harmless traps to scare the guests— for not letting him know he planned to pull a stunt like closing the iron gates. When Schecter states that he is not responsible, Price believes Evelyn is responsible. Meanwhile, Pritchett, Eddie and Sara go into the lower levels to find a way to open the gates.

Melissa is killed by one of the ghosts when she wanders off in the basement. After Melissa's disappearance, Price goes to Schecter to accuse him of faking the killing and hiding her. when he turns the seat around Schecter is found, dead, with his face hollowed out. Surprised, Price notices a man on the screen, when getting a closer look it reveals to be a doctor walking through the room with a bloody knife. Evelyn dies in front of the others, when they find her mysteriously strapped onto a hypercharged electroshock therapy table. Pritchett has repeatedly stated that the house is haunted – after finding their last names on a staff picture from the asylum, the group deduce that that the spirits themselves created the guest list specifically to include the descendants of the five members of Vannacutt's staff who did not die in the 1931 incident. The only exception is Blackburn, whose name does not appear amongst the staff.

We soon see that Blackburn is Evelyn's lover and that they are working together to bring down Price. Evelyn, who was brought back to life with a needle by Blackburn, kills Blackburn and uses his body to frame Price. Sara, who heard Melissa moaning in the basement, comes across an incoherent Price in the basement, and believing that he is Blackburn's murderer, shoots him when he approaches her. After the others return upstairs, Evelyn approaches Price to gloat, and Price, protected by a bullet-proof vest, attempts to kill Evelyn. The two scuffle before Price throws her through a decaying door. Inside the rotting room, the two realize they just stumbled upon the evil core of the house. The Darkness – a dark, shape-shifting creature composed of the spirits in the house – awakens and begins to take form. Evelyn is captured by the Darkness, which assimilaties Evelyn into itself, killing her while Price watches in horror.

The Darkness emerges in front of Price, revealing that it is composed of "everyone who died and is responsible". This force begins to pursue Price with the intention of killing all the remaining guests. Upstairs, Pritchett, Eddie and Sara investigate when they hear Price's screams. Pritchett is killed by The Darkness, allowing Price to evade it. Price tells Sara and Eddie that "the house is alive" and deduces that the only way to get out is through the attic. The three flee as The Darkness begins to seep through the house, manipulating the walls and shattering the floors as it chases them.

As they flee, Sara trips, and the Darkness uses Melissa's form to try to lure her to it. Price activates a pulley that reveals an opening in the window of the attic. When the Darkness seeps into the attic, Price sacrifices himself to give the others time to escape, but the Darkness reactivates the iron gate after Sara escapes, trapping Eddie inside.

When The Darkness confronts Eddie about his ancestor's actions, it takes on several forms of damned spirits including Melissa & Evelyn who taunt him about his doom. Realizing he is about to be taken, Eddie screams out of desperation that he was actually adopted. As the Darkness prepares to assimilate Eddie, Pritchett's ghost suddenly appears and opens the iron gate. The Darkness is distracted by Pritchett long enough for Eddie to escape out the window to Sara safe on an outside ledge. Pritchett's ghost and the Darkness then both fade away. As Sara and Eddie watch the sun rise, they notice an envelope halfway through the gate. It contains all five $1 million cheques, made out to cash.

In an epilogue, a film is shown with the patients torturing Evelyn and Price in the afterlife, assuming that everyone killed in the house relives death for eternity.

Cast[edit]

Rush's name, "Price", as well as Rush's appearance, is a nod to actor Vincent Price, who played the similar lead role, then named "Frederick Loren", in the original film.

Promotion[edit]

In keeping with the spirit of William Castle's tradition of releasing each of his films with a marketing gimmick, Warner Bros. and Dark Castle supplied movie theatres with scratch-off tickets that would be given to anyone who paid to see the film. The scratch-off ticket would give each movie patron a chance to win money much like the characters in the film.

Dark Castle had originally intended to release each of their films with a gimmick much like William Castle had done. They had considered releasing the remake Thirteen Ghosts in 3-D with special glasses similar to the ones used by the characters in the film. These plans were scrapped and House on Haunted Hill remains the only film released with a special marketing gimmick.

Reception[edit]

In comparison of the original's overwhelmingly positive score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, this remake did quite the opposite. Based on 55 reviews (40 of which are negative), the film received a score of 27%.[2] The reviewers agreed that it was an "unsophisticated and unoriginal film [that] fails to produce [any] scares". Likewise, Metacritic gave the film a score of 28 out of 100, based on a sample of 17 professional reviews.[3]

The general audience's average score is 5.4/10, according to IMDb.[4]

Sequel[edit]

Warner Premiere released the sequel Return to House on Haunted Hill on DVD on October 16, 2007. In this film, Sara Wolfe has committed suicide, and had Dr. Vannacutt's diary revealing secrets of the haunted house. Her younger sister, Ariel, must investigate the House on Haunted Hill to find out the truth behind Sara's death and related secrets.

Soundtrack[edit]

House On Haunted Hill
Film score by Don Davis
Released November 2, 1999
Genre Soundtracks
Film scores
Length 54:01
Label Varèse Sarabande

The soundtrack for the film was commercially released on the label Varèse Sarabande, containing selections from the original score by Don Davis.[5]

Track listing
  1. Main Title
  2. Pencil Neck
  3. Hans Verbosemann
  4. House Humongous
  5. Piano Quartet in G Minor Opus 25 - Johannes Brahms
  6. Funky Old House
  7. No Exit
  8. Gun Control
  9. Surprise
  10. Price Pestiferous
  11. Misty Misogamy
  12. Coagulatory Calamity
  13. Melissa in Wonderland
  14. Sorry, Tulip
  15. Struggling to Escape
  16. Soirée a Saturation
  17. On the House
  18. Dead But Nice
  19. Blackburn's Surprise
  20. Encountering Mr. Blackburn
  21. The Price Petard
  22. Epiphanic Evelyn
  23. The Corpus Delecti Committee Meeting
  24. Price in Perpetuity
  25. The Beast with the Least

The song Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Marilyn Manson is not on the movie soundtrack but is played during the movie's end credits.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "House on Haunted Hill (1999)". Box Office Mojo. 2002-08-28. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  2. ^ "House on Haunted Hill". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  3. ^ "House on Haunted Hill Reviews". Metacritic. 1999-10-29. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  4. ^ House on Haunted Hill at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ "House on Haunted Hill Soundtrack (complete album tracklisting)". SoundtrackINFO. 1999-11-02. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 

External links[edit]