Having always been a huge fan of the old 1959 Vincent Price movie, The House On Haunted Hill, I must admit that initially I was a little cynical about how this 1999 remake would compare to the original film, knowing how disappointing many such reboots of classic horror flicks have proved to be. However, having now watched it on DVD, I have to say that this new take on the story turned out to be one of the pleasing exceptions. In fact, I thought it was a very good remake indeed.
The plot of The House on Haunted Hill 1999 is somewhat similar that of the 1959 version, but with a few ghostly special effects thrown in for good measure. A group of unsuspecting people (well, in this case, the WRONG group of people due to a little surreptitious tinkering with a computer list by a paranormal intruder) are invited to spend a night in a big, creepy, old (yes, yes, I know – all the usual haunted house descriptive cliches) building – a long-abandoned insane asylum called the Vannacut Psychiatric Unit for the Criminally Insane – by a millionaire (who looks and sounds remarkably like Vincent Price himself) with theatrical tendencies. The character is obviously a nod to the horror legend, for his surname also happens to be Price in the movie. Anyway, the ones that manage to stay alive by morning will each receive one million dollars reward for braving whatever horrors the building might hold. I have always found this particular kind of haunted house formula quite thrilling and entertaining, and the scenario that pans out in this movie certainly doesn’t disappoint in this respect.
In addition to all the interesting characters and special effects, I also liked the various twists and turns which cropped up throughout the movie. Just when you thought a particular character wasn’t such a bad skin, they would suddenly turn around and do something that would make your jaw drop open in utter disbelief. The overwhelming creepiness of the old, labyrinthine asylum, with its black history, certainly added to the intensely foreboding and oppressive atmosphere of the story, and unlike in a lot of horror movies where a group of people become trapped in a similarly hellish place, this one really had me rooting for the characters, just as the 1959 version did.
Jeffrey Combs (of Re-Animator fame), who is one of my favourite modern-day horror actors, is, as always, brilliant in the role of the evil Dr Vannacut, and the occasional flashbacks of his questionable experiments on the patients are quite eerie and disturbing. Thought the reproductions of the old, faded newspaper cuttings highlighting the massacre that took place at the asylum in the thirties were pretty cool too.
All in all, I can’t really find a bad thing to say about this remake of one of my all time favourite haunted house movies. It’s a successful mixture between an old-fashioned ‘haunted house’ chiller and a modern special effects playground. House On Haunted Hill is a film that every fan of haunted house movies should have in his collection, as it has a great re-watchability factor.
Watch out for that big vat of blood now.
You can The House on Haunted Hill 1999 now by clicking on the movie image link above this article.