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House on Haunted Hill: Collector's Edition (1999) - Blu-ray Review

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House on Haunted Hill (1999) - Blu-ray

3 beers

In which the showman, with spotlights and all, actually becomes the show. 

I hold William Castle with high regard when it comes to horror.  Entertaining as hell, he could always be relied on to create an atmosphere with his many films.  Audiences are only now just rediscovering his gems.  Makes sense then that Scream Factory would bring out Warner Bros remake of House on Haunted Hill with brand new supplementals and a crisp new 2K scan in this the Collector’s Edition of this film from 1999. 

While it is far from scary, this flick is certainly psychotic with its chills and thrills.  It has nice nods to the Castle franchise (and The Uninvited!) and to Vincent Price but the film’s refusal to find humor through its dark tunnels is a glaring misstep.  So are all the fake deaths as one demented couple tries their best to kill the other.  One gets the sense, too, that there are far too many cooks in the kitchen for this flick.  From heavies like Joel Silver to Robert Zemeckis, every producer has a set of ideas and they are all crammed into this production. 

"strange figures look a lot like typical H.P. Lovecraft monsters and, for that birthday treat, we can be thankful"


All is not lost, though.  Thanks to a change in location – from a spooky home to a mental institution –, a super-charged 1930s backstory involving human experiments and Nazi doctors, and more gore, director William Malone (Creature, Feardotcom) succeeds in making this remake his own.  It still lacks when held up to the original film, but it doesn’t completely suck.

Starring Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen, House on Haunted Hill begins with a death-defying rollercoaster ride courtesy of Price Enterprises (Vincent Price, get it?), an elevator stunt, and Marilyn Manson’s cover of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This).  It is then that we realize that Steven Price (Rush) just might be the William Castle figure in this movie, always pulling pranks on his audience.  Wild things are bound to happen when he leases an abandoned mental institute for his bored and spoiled wife’s birthday.  But are they Price’s kind of wild or some unnatural entity?

One would think that Evelyn Stockard-Price (Janssen) would be happier about her birthday.  She’s not, though.  She hates her husband and only wants his money.  In fact, none of these characters are very thrilled about their standing in life which, if you are anything like me, makes them all targets.  Truth is, we could care less about any of the victims of the evening…and the asylum.  We just want to know if the ghosts are real or not! {googleads}

And so five guests arrive on that fateful night – Sara Wolfe (Ali Larter), Eddie Baker (Taye Diggs), Melissa Margaret Marr (Bridgette Wilson), Dr. Donald Blackburn (Peter Gallagher), and Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan) – to experience the thrills in the challenge of staying the night in this haunted place for a cool $100 million.  Who can survive?

The film gets viscous quickly as the flickering ghosts turn the tables on the living.  The house, as is explained, is PISSED.  One key sequence, involving a digital recording device held by Marr as she goes searching through the institute’s halls, that is STILL pretty solid.  She sees the ghosts performing an experimental surgery through her camera.  Looks up and there is nothing in front of her.  She looks at the viewfinder again.  They are there.  Except now they have noticed her. 

And then they attack.  Moments like that one, before the film bites its own hand off with an over-the-top conclusion thanks to the special effects from Gregory Nicotero and Robert Kurtzman, gives this remake a certain lift.  If only it had given us more of that instead of going full tilt grisly rather than ghastly.

House on Haunted Hill (1999) - Blu-ray

With makeup design by Dick Smith, in his last screen presence, there is a solid creature design running amuck through this insane asylum turned party place.  This works to distract us enough from some of the glaring faults in the production.  These strange figures look a lot like typical H.P. Lovecraft monsters and, for that birthday treat, we can be thankful. 

If only there was a bit more frosting on this birthday cake, though.  House on Haunted Hill, with great miniature effects (THAT HOUSE!!) is now available in a shiny new Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory.

House on Haunted Hill (1999) - Blu-ray

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
93 mins
Director
: William Malone
Writer:
Dick Beebe
Cast:
Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs
Genre
: Horror | Mystery
Tagline:
Are You Dying To Be Rich?.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Jesus, she's dead. She was cute, too. God, I'd love to get laid before I die."
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 29, 1999
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 9, 2018
Synopsis: One night in the house, one million bucks, no questions asked. But there is a catch for anyone who accepts the offer. Murder is a way of life at the House on Haunted Hill, a jolting, effects-ramped remake of the 1959 cult classic that starred Vincent Price and was directed by screen horror legend William Castle. Geoffrey Rush plays twisted theme park bigshot Stephen Price, who's hosting a scary/jokey birthday bash for his wife (Famke Janssen) at an abandoned institute for the criminally insane.

House on Haunted Hill (1999) - Blu-ray

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- October 9, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Scream Factory’s NEW 2k scan and 1080p transfer is simply fantastic.  The crisp image is fully resolved with the lightest, most beautiful layer of grain and no detection of digital noise reduction whatsoever.  Blacks are deep and strong.  The mastering here is impeccable.  There is a fair amount of detail and not a speck of dirt to be found in the scans of the original movie, though.  Simply put, this title has never looked better.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 takes full advantage of the horror atmospherics and the score, carrying the viewer from one scene to the next, with ease.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Ported over from the previous release of this movie is the commentary from director William Malone.

Special Features:

We get new interviews from Malone, who now says his film is a fun flick and not a serious one, and composer Don Davis, who still gives his all with this great score.  There is also an interview with Robert Skotak, the visual effects supervisor.  The rest is pretty standard stuff.

• NEW Interview With Director William Malone

• NEW Interview With Composer Don Davis

• NEW Interview With Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Skotak

• Never-Before-Seen Storyboards, Concept Art And Behind-The-Scenes Photos Courtesy Of Visual Effects Producer Paul Taglianetti

• Audio Commentary With Director William Malone

• A Tale Of Two Houses – Vintage Featurette

• Behind the Visual FX – Vintage Featurette

• Deleted Scenes

• Theatrical Trailer

• TV Spots

• Movie Stills And Poster Gallery

House on Haunted Hill (1999) - Blu-ray

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