House on Haunted Hill (1959 & 1999)

For this review, I am going to review both versions of House on Haunted Hill in one complete post. Enjoy.

House on Haunted Hill.jpgAn eccentric millionaire and his wife have invited five people to the house for a "haunted house" party. Whoever stays in the house for one night will earn a lot of money each ($10,000 in the original, $1,000,000 in the remake). As the night progresses, all the guests are trapped inside the house with ghosts and other terrors.

Remakes in the horror genre are as common as Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton film. But good horror remakes are less common, like a Tim Burton film without Johnny Depp. Having had the opportunity to see both versions of House on Haunted Hill, I couldn't think of writing a review about either film without comparing it with the other version of the film.

Vincent Price does an exceptional job playing eccentric millionaire, named Fredrick Loren in the '59 version, and any scenes he shares with his wife, Annabelle, is nothing short of brilliant. This is a stark comparison to Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen's relationship, which is unsubtle and uninteresting. Every threat Price and onscreen wife Carol Ohmart shared with one another carried some weight to it, like you actually believed the two of them were trying to kill each other because you could feel their loathing for each other, but Rush and Janssen's threats feel empty, like they're just saying it to piss each other off and nothing more.

In the original, the lead characters, Lance and Nora, were pretty compelling and had quite the chemistry with one another that you couldn't imagine them not getting together. The remakes attempts at their own Lance and Nora are called Eddie and Sara, who share zero chemistry, making their constant flirting feel nothing short of forced.

While I have said that Lane, Nora, Loren and Annabelle are each brilliant, apart from Dr Trent, all of the other characters aren't really developed, but seem to be there just to boost the number of the cast members up. With that said, though, they are better developed characters than the annoying horror archetypes that the characters from the remake were.

The biggest change in the remake is how the films ghostly element has been pushed to the forefront of the movie. This is a stark comparison to the original, where the ghosts were pushed to the background to make it more ambiguous as to whether it was really ghosts or just Loren's tricks all along. By allowing such a change, the rest of the film suddenly bends in order for the ghostly element to run wild, even changing a few bits and blaming it on the ghosts.

Such a big change gives way for the second biggest change: the ending. In the original, a twist occurs which leads to a truly fantastic ending, but the remake reveals the twist earlier on in such an eye-rolling fashion and ends up having no overall effect on the film, leaving it to the bad effects ghosts to run the rest of the film.

The remake opens with Geoffrey Rush's Stephen H. Price promising 'no cheap thrills', which cannot be said about this film, as William Malone's decision to have allow the ghostly element to run more prominently, along with too much of a focus on the blood and gore, makes this version of House on Haunted Hill into nothing more than another generic ghost film. It also really says something when the effects from the remake feels more dated than the '59 versions effects.

The original, however, is an often creepy, often spooky and often campy, classic piece of horror from William Castle. If you have the choice to watch either of these films, do yourself a favor and watch the original, which is a sentence that could be used for nearly all horror remakes.