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Film / House on Haunted Hill (1999)

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The remake of House on Haunted Hill (1959) from 1999, directed by William Malone and starring Geoffrey Rush, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, Famke Janssen, James Marsters, Chris Kattan, 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 (Combs), 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 (Rush) is leasing this facility for the Halloween party of his spoiled trophy wife Evelyn (Jannsen). 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:

  • Ambiguously Bi: Hinted at with Stephen. Some of his interactions with Evelyn, especially after the house is well into its killing spree, indicate that they may still have had some very small shreds of love left for each other. On the other hand, Evelyn makes a couple of remarks implying that Stephen is secretly attracted to guys.
    Evelyn: "Which part of that fantasy turns you on the most? Me with other men, or just the other men?"
  • 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.
  • Anti-Villain:
    • The mental patients 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.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Downplayed 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.
  • 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: Way more blood and gore compared to the original.
  • Bloody Horror: So, so much! The prime examples are Melissa's death which the guests find a large puddle of blood as well as a blood streak going up the walls, ceiling, and into the house. Her body is found later when Stephen comes across a display case with Melissa's hollowed out torso along with several of her bones, organs, and severed head inside. Occurs again when Stephen comes across his tech guy with his face ripped off and his skull hollowed out as well as when Evelyn murders Donald by stabbing him several times with a scalpel and placing his bloody severed head inside the saturation chamber.
  • Death by Genre Savviness: Pritchard, who knows the lethal history of the house, spends most of the movie sitting in the most central, well-lit room possible and drinking heavily. However, this doesn't do him much good. Interestingly, in the original version of the script, he was the one who survived, while the black guy died.
  • Demonic Head Shake: One of the characters experiences a rather freaky nightmare while trapped in a sensory deprivation chamber. This starts with a ghost nurse "diagnosing" him, before asking the ghost of Dr. Vanacut for his "opinion". The Doctor responds by shaking his head in a blurry fashion.
  • Doomed Defeatist: Toyed with, where Prichard knows about how the house is completely fricking evil and is fully aware that he, and everyone else in the house, is probably going to die. He spends the majority of the movie drinking and making dark, fatalistic quips about how everyone is doomed and there's no escape. The movie almost fools you into thinking he might be one of the few to survive after he starts actually helping to get everyone out, and then he gets the quickest death in the whole movie. At least he gets to save the ones who are left as a ghost at the end.
  • Enclosed Space: For both films; once they enter the building, they won't be able to leave so easily.
  • Genius Loci: Pritchard constantly warns the others that the house itself is alive and trying to kill everyone. This is proven true near the end, when it manifests as a hive-mind entity comprised of the spirits of everyone who have died there. At one point a hallway even turns into a gaping mouth.
  • 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.
  • Losing Your Head: Happens during Price's hallucination in the Saturation Chamber when he sees his wife holding his still-living head.
  • Mad Scientist: Vannacutt, who experimented on patients and even staff members while he was alive.
  • Mind Hive: It turns out that the house isn't merely haunted, but the ghosts have amalgated into a single entity that speaks with multiple voices, and wants to devour the souls of the visitors to add to its consciousness.
  • Off with His Head!: Happens to Dr. Blackburn; after Evelyn stabs him several times with a scalpel she decapitates him and places his severed head in the saturation chamber to frame Stephen.
  • The Place: The Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane.
  • Punny Name: The head doctor heavily into vivisecting is named Vannacutt (say with a Transylvanian accent).
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Evelyn; Stephen even says she's "fucking every living thing in our area code".
    • Melissa could also qualify as she doesn't have any scruples about sleeping with people to advance her career.
  • The Remake: Made 40 years after the original.
  • Sapient House: The house as a whole has become one because of the Eldritch Abomination Mind Hive residing inside it, with an entire hallway at one point transforming into a gaping jaw.
  • Shout-Out: The guest list Price types up for Evelyn's birthday (before the Eldritch Abomination deletes it and makes a new one) is a list of shout outs:
    • Mary Seward (script supervisor Mary Anne Seward)
    • Valdemar Tymrak (a psychopath in the Tales from the Crypt episode "Report from the Grave," directed by the film's director William Malone)
    • W.L. Malone (director William Malone)
    • Gilbert Adler (one of the producers)
  • 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), Sara (lied about her identity), and Blackburn (he was Evelyn's secret lover and invited him to the party).
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sara when confronted with the ghosts just stands there and has to be pulled or pushed away several times. Then again, it likely has less to do with her being Too Dumb to Live than her being frozen in fear from seeing an actual Eldritch Abomination.
  • 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 sped up for the movie, creating Marionette Motion.
  • Undead Abomination: The Big Bad is a monstrous, amorphous mass of ghosts bound together by their own collective madness and hatred for the living, capable of warping reality within the confines of the house itself and can induce near-catatonic fear at the very sight of it.