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Film: House on Haunted Hill (1999)

The remake of House on Haunted Hill (1959) from 1999, directed by William Malone and starring Geoffrey Rush, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, and Jeffrey Combs. The setting of the fateful party is moved to an abandoned mental hospital, the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane, said to be haunted by the malevolent ghosts of the murderous inmates. The head of the facility, Dr. Richard B. Vannacutt, performed grotesque experiments on his patients, killing many in the process. The hospital was only closed when a handful of inmates escaped, killing almost the entire staff and setting fire to the facility, while security gates trapped everyone inside.

Fast forward to the present, where amusement park mogul Stephen Price is leasing this facility for the Halloween party of his spoiled trophy wife Evelyn. The five invitees are given a similar challenge as in the original movie, only the pot has been upped to $1,000,000 for any survivors, plus the winnings of any who do not survive having their earnings added to those of any remaining survivors. Soon after the party begins, the security gates are tripped, and the partygoers are trapped inside the facility with the insane spirits haunting the facility - including not only all the inmates, but also Vannacutt himself.

The film marked the debut of Dark Castle Entertainment, which went on to produce Thir13en Ghosts and House of Wax (2005), the former also a remake of a William Castle movie. It was followed by a sequel, Return to House on Haunted Hill, in 2007.


This remake contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital
  • Anti-Villain: The mental patents aren't evil but revolting against the abuse they suffered at the hands of the Staff.
    • The second movie reveals that even the staff members were not evil. Dr. Vannacutt was using the demon idol to make them kill. In the afterlife he was using it to control the ghosts and make them kill.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: Price plays with the line between "safe" thrills and "dangerous" thrills early on, when he sends guests for a ride on a roller coaster that is designed to fling the train ahead of you off the track, leading you to (logically) believe that you're about to die horribly, only for your train to continue over the same stretch of track unharmed. He thinks the whole thing is hilarious.
  • Another Side, Another Story: Haure is a member of a Lesbian Cult which worships the demon Baphomet; and only joined Desmond to retrieve the statute. This is only shown in the unrated DVD version if the viewer has her resist the lesbian ghosts, or in the "Confessionals" extra on the rated R DVD.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Subverted with Steven and Evelyn Price. In spite of both of their repeated attempts to humiliate and kill the other, there are moments that hint their may have once been real love in the marriage. Steven seems genuinely distraught when he believes Evelyn has been murdered. Not only that Evelyn fearfully calls out for Steven right before she is consumed by the evil spirit of the house.
  • Backup from Otherworld: Pritchard, after having died, appears as a ghost to help the last two escape.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. Eddie escapes with Sara. Played straight in the sequel.
  • The Blank: During Price's hallucination, The Blank shows up swimming through darkness. It has no eyes, no face, but a mouth. And fangs.
  • Bloodier and Gorier
  • Bloody Handprint: Prominently featured in the cover art.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Everyone has a cellphone. None of them work.
  • Chair Reveal
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: The unrated DVD of the second film features technology which allows you to change the decision made by a character, and thereby radically alter outcome of the movie. There are 96 total ways the movie can play out.
  • Closed Circle: This starts out apparently engineered, until it becomes quite clear that the sanitarium is calling the shots.
  • Creepy Basement: Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Death by Genre Savviness: Pritchard.
  • Doomed Defeatist: Pritchard.
  • Enclosed Space
  • Exact Words: "You'll never have to work another day in your life" because I'm going to rip your brain out.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: Hey, one of Price's guys, maybe can help us escHOLY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO HIS FACE...
  • Final Girl: Sara, but it's a slight inversion considering Eddie survives too.
  • Genre Savvy: Pritchard. "The house is alive. We're all gonna die."
  • Haunted House: A madhouse, to be exact. On a hill!
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Though usually not a very heroic character, Price shoves Sarah out of the path of the resident Eldritch Abomination, and is consumed by the monster himself.
  • Ironic Hell: The last shot is of the spirits of Stephen and Evelyn Price still trapped in the asylum, being vivisected by patients for, one may assume, eternity.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Desmond suggests it in the beginning of the sequel. Kyle immediately points out what a bad idea it is, but is ignored.
  • Mad Scientist: Vannacutt.
  • Meaningful Name: Price. Also a Shout-Out.
  • On One Condition
  • The Place
  • Punny Name: The head doctor heavily into vivisecting is named Vannacutt (say with a Transylvanian accent).
  • The Remake
  • Screamer Trailer: A similar effect is used in-movie.
  • Shout-Out: Within the second film, the director works in two different allusions to Lucas films from Hammer with him commenting that Desmond "was once a pupil of his" and then later proclaiming that the Baphomet idol "belongs in a museum" in rapid succession.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: The whole reason the house has called these particular guests is because all of them are descended from the sole survivors of the fire that destroyed the asylum. Except for Eddie (adopted) and Sarah (lied about her identity).
  • Too Dumb to Live: The character who wanders alone into the basement with a video camera.
    • To be fair, her character hadn't really seen any of the really horrific stuff going on in the house at that point and probably assumed the minor events so far were rigged by Price or had a logical explanation. By the time she realized the truth, it was already too late.
    • Jennifer when confronted with the ghosts just stands there and has to be pulled or pushed away several times.
  • Undercrank: Used to creepy effect in the both movies for Vannacutt. Jeffrey Combs was told to move in slow motion, and the footage was then speeded up for the movie, creating Marionette Motion.

House on Haunted Hill (1959)Ghost FictionI Know What You Did Last Summer
HeaterFilms of the 1990sIdle Hands
House on Haunted Hill (1959)Horror FilmsThe House On Sorority Row

alternative title(s): Return To House On Haunted Hill
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