An effects-heavy remake of the gleefully gimmicky William Castle picture of the same title, in which an ordinary family finds itself in an extraordinary house crawling with hostile spirits. Eccentric adventurer Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham) is a man with a mission: He's collecting ghosts and has trapped them in specially constructed containment cubes,...read more
An effects-heavy remake of the gleefully gimmicky William Castle picture of the same title, in which an ordinary family finds itself in an extraordinary house crawling with hostile spirits. Eccentric adventurer Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham) is a man with a mission: He's collecting ghosts and has trapped them in specially constructed containment cubes, like bugs in mayonnaise jars. In a nod to the original film's "Illusion-O" gimmick, he's also developed special spectral specs that reveal otherwise invisible spooks. (To see the ghosts in Castle's film, viewers had to wear glasses with colored lenses.) Cyrus is killed during a botched effort to capture an especially hostile spirit, and his impoverished nephew, Arthur (Tony Shaloub), inherits Cyrus's multi-million dollar house and its contents. Arthur and his grieving children, teenage daughter Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and morbid little Bobby (Alec Roberts), were recently left homeless by a fire that also killed Arthur's beloved wife, Jean (Kathryn Anderson). As night approaches, the Kriticos clan and their sassy nanny (rapper Rah Digga) yes, Hollywood's definition of poverty includes a nanny set off to inspect their new home, a glass museum in the middle of nowhere. Arcane symbols are etched onto every available surface, the floors are constructed of intricately interlocking rings and the walls are studded with cogs, cables and flywheels. Overall the place looks less like someone's home than the inside of that HELLRAISER puzzle box... the one that opened the gateway to Hell. They also find Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard), a high-strung psychic who was in Cyrus's employ, lurking outside dressed like a telephone repairman. Dennis hopes to gain access to the house and make off with the money Cyrus owed him, but once he's seen the cache of ghost containment units in the basement, each inhabited by a very pissed-off phantom, he abandons the ruse and delivers the classic warning: Get out of the house. It's too late, of course; the switch that sets the house's mysterious gears in motion has already been tripped, and the ghosts are being freed, one by one. The second remake of a William Castle spook show (following 2000's THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL) zips along at a brisk pace and some of the ghost effects are creepy, but ultimately it's an efficient but soulless funhouse ride that eschews suspense in favor of frantic scrambling from disturbing specters, like the naked female ghost who lurks around bloody bathtubs.
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