House on Haunted Hill (1999)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Gothic Film, Haunted House Film  |   Release Date - Oct 29, 1999 (USA)  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Karl Williams

Nothing much scary happens in this well-cast but ultimately unsatisfying horror remake of a 1958 camp classic that starred the late, great Vincent Price. Slumming in B-movie territory, the acclaimed Geoffrey Rush does his best to fill in for the horror master, but in a film that's as pure cheese as this, someone a little more tongue-in-cheek is called for (Bill Murray pops immediately to mind). Director William Malone positions the setting, situation, and characters firmly in the postmodern arena familiar to fans of modern teen scare-fests. He and producer Terry Castle, granddaughter of the original film's creator William Castle, ladle up spoonfuls of humor from sketch comedy veteran Chris Kattan (the film's best moments) and never allow their hip, coolly detached protagonists to get so authentically freaked out that they can't mouth witticisms at opportune junctures. There's not great acting here, just those who manage to seem credible and believable (Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Jeffrey Combs) and those who don't (just about everybody else, including Ali Larter as a laughable assistant-cum-secretary who we're supposed to believe is plucky but is actually just rather fortunate). The worst kind of comedy one can imagine is the one that forgets to "bring the funny," as it were. The House on Haunted Hill (1999) is a horror film that forgets to bring the scary.