Friday, April 1, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Day 1: A horror film that no one would expect you to love, but you do.

I had some trouble coming up with this entry. Honestly, if you know me, I can’t imagine you being really surprised that I like any horror flick. I like more horror than I don’t like by a wide margin. I even asked some friends “Are there any horror movies you’re surprised that I like” and no one could come up with anything. Then I was reading another blog and saw someone mention how bad the remake of House on Haunted Hill was. Looks like I’ve found my answer.

People might be surprised that I like, nay, love this movie because it’s a remake. A remake of a film starring my favorite actor of all time, Vincent Price, no less. Normally, I hate remakes. In fact, I despise the trend. This movie, coming at the very beginning of remake-mania, did it right. It takes the basic framework of the original, references it, but shows enough creativity and originality to make it its own entity. Give this flick a different title and it would play just as well.

My question is, why do people hate on this movie so much? I mean, it’s got a 25% Rotten Tomatoes Rating and a 5.3 on IMDB. Maybe it got lumped in with another haunted house remake that came out at the same time, the absolutely awful The Haunting. While some point to the plot holes, and yes they are there, movies that are generally loved by the horror world have been built on much thinner plots than this. I don’t really know why this movie has gotten such a bad rap, but it certainly isn’t deserved.

Visually, House on Haunted Hill is stunning. The set dressers and art directors did an amazing job. The house, or rather the old asylum, is as good a location as anyone’s ever created. From the lavish foyer to the genuinely creepy bowels of the building, it has a unique look that becomes a character in and of itself. This flick doesn’t go overboard with the cheap quick edit jump scares. It creates an unnerving atmosphere through the sheer bizarreness of its visuals. The “saturation chamber,” the great ghosts, the skinless statuary, the operation rooms, and the labyrinth like corridors are all unsettling. The cast is solid. Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, and Bridgette Wilson are good, even if their characters aren’t very well developed. Peter Gallagher, Famke Janssen, Chris Kattan, and the always awesome Geoffery Rush are all excellent. People say Rush overacts in this, and that may be true, but it’s that over the top grand guignol excess that the entire movie revels in that makes it so good. Chris Kattan is absolutely hilarious, adding just the right amount of comic relief to the proceedings. Plus, any movie with a cameo by Jeffery Combs as a demented ghost surgeon gets huge points from me.

This movie is not without its faults. When we actually see the embodiment of the “spirit of the house” it’s pretty lame. The ending is way too cliché for me. Personally, I think one of its biggest faults is the exclusion of a scene in the basement involving zombies that is so killer that I think cutting it hurt the movie. At least it’s on the DVD. Dark Castle has been extremely hit or miss over the years; producing good stuff like The Hills Run Red, The Orphan, and Splice while offering up atrocities like Gothika, Ghost Ship, and the House of Wax remake. For my money though, House on Haunted Hill, their first flick, is a little slice of B movie heaven. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says take my word for it and check it out.


Cash Wampum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cash Wampum said...

would say this was my favourite horror in that late 90s period. Its got my two favourite Jeffreys in it. I thought the chemistry between Famke Jensen and Rush was superb. I love Ali Larter so it was nice to see her survive the ordeal. I can take Taye Diggs or leave him. Chris Kattan was hilarious as Pratchet. I liked the Nicotero gore. I'm fairly certain he has a cameo at the beginning as a roller coaster technician. I'd recognize that long blonde hair anywhere.

We get to see Lisa Loeb and dude from Buffy (Spike, Swank? I forget the character's name) shit their pants with the elevator gimmck. The movie was great from beginning to end.

A lot of the hate comes from the end of the flick where the evil actually manifests. I liked it. It was a phantasmagoria of different bodies all entangled and writhing. Not the best CGI but it was interesting.

No, I have to agree with S.O.C. 100% this is an excellent and creepy little chiller. Worthy of Price, I'd say. If you're going to fill Price's shoes you need someone with great presence and Jeffrey Rush has that and more.

SonOfCelluloid said...

I forget if I heard this in a making of special feature or the DVD commentary, but apparently "the evil" isn't CGI at all. It's all rotoscoping and composites and post production film manipulation, but it wasn't CGI. I always thought it was too.

Cash Wampum said...

I didn't mind it, however it was done. I really liked the laughter that came from it, sounding like some of it was backwards, a good chilling audio effect. It took a couple of viewings before I caught how Pratchet says "death by corrosion", he knows exactly what they were in for. Top notch movie!

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