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House on Haunted Hill Reviews

A flat-out fright flick that shares little more than its title and bare-bones premise with the 1958 horror spoof starring Vincent Price. First, the house: It used to be a mental institution, highly respected until loony Dr. Vanacutt (RE-ANIMATOR's Jeffrey Combs) took over and turned it into his own private corner of hell, vivisecting and electroshocking and otherwise tormenting his patients until they rebelled, slaughtering the staff and setting the place on fire. Some 60 years later it's been refurbished, and amusement park magnate Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush) rents it for a birthday bash honoring his wife Evelyn (Famke Janssen). To spice up the festivities, he offers $1,000,000. to any guest who makes it through the whole night. But hey — what's going on? Sure, spiteful Steven shredded Evelyn's guest list in favor of his own, but the guests who appear in the oversized doorway aren't the ones he invited either. They include production assistant Sara (Ali Larter), who swiped her boss' invitation; cool and capable Eddie (Taye Diggs); ditsy TV twinkie Melissa (Bridgette Wilson); and level-headed Dr. Blackburn (Peter Gallagher). Rounding out the group is Pritchett (Chris Kattan), the house's owner; he just wants to collect his rental fee and split. But before he can, the group find themselves locked in. Are the subsequent scary events Steven's sadistic idea of fun? Is Evelyn responsible? Or — gasp! — is the house really is as evil as its reputation? Director William Malone lets the action drag; the script relies heavily on contrivances of the "Hey, I'm going to go poke around in the basement by myself" variety; and the scariest images are lifted directly from JACOB'S LADDER and GHOST STORY. But for horror fans in a forgiving mood, it's an adequate fear fix.